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Local military reacts to DoD rescinding COVID-19 vaccine mandate

January 12, 2023

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SAN DIEGO — The Department of Defense rescinded its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for members of the armed forces.

Some service members say they will look to be re-instated after being separated over the mandate while others are worried this will impact whether some troops will be ready to deploy.

Army National Guard Veteran Tyler Smith served for nearly five years, but says he had to leave the military after the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

“It came down the chain of command and we all were informed that we were supposed to get our vaccines or we were going to be separated in one form or another,” Smith said.

In a memorandum, the Secretary of Defense rescinded the mandate saying no service members will be separated solely for refusing the vaccine.

But others worry not mandating the vaccine will affect the readiness of troops and their ability to deploy.

“The health of our military impacts our national security,” said Navy Veteran Shawn VanDiver with Truman National Security Project. “We saw when the Teddy Roosevelt was taken out of the fight because there was such a massive COVID outbreak on their ship and now Congress has put politics over our military readiness.”

But others say the mandate affected military recruitment and retention.

“We know at least 8,400 have been forced out and the estimated are 30,000 people who either were forced out, chose to get out early or never enlisted to begin with because of the COVID mandates,” said Anthony Kuhn with Tully Rinckey PLLC.

The DoD released a statement saying in part:

“The Department will continue to promote and encourage COVID-19 vaccination for all Service members.”

The vaccine has been administered to more than 2 million service members and 96% of the force is fully vaccinated, according to the DoD.

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