Soldiers in the Army Reserve and National Guard who refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine won’t be allowed to attend any federally funded activities, including their monthly drills, and won’t receive pay or retirement credit, the Pentagon announced.
Troops refusing the vaccine, with an approved or pending exemption, could also face a reprimand or a bar from service.
The new regulations took effect on July 1 following the directive from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
“Unit commanders will be able to activate and pay soldiers for limited administrative purposes, such as receiving the vaccine, processing their exemption requests, or conducting separation procedures,” Army officials said in a statement.
The order could impact an estimated 40,000 troops. It takes effect just as many reserve and national guard soldiers are heading out to attend their annual drills. The long-term impact of the Army vaccination order isn’t immediately clear. The Army — both full-time and reserve components — is facing significant recruiting challenges.
While the Army allows soldiers to apply for exemptions, only a handful have been granted.
The U.S. Army Reserve is under federal control, so the latest order is easier to enforce. It is a different case for the U.S. Army National Guard, however. It operates under a dual-command structure. A state governor is commander-in-chief until the guard unit gets federally activated.
The Army says 87% of National Guard troops are fully vaccinated while the rate for the Army Reserve is slighter higher at 88%.