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A soldier watches another soldier receive his coronavirus vaccination from Army Preventative Medical Services on Sept. 9, 2021, in Fort Knox, Ky.

A soldier watches another soldier receive his coronavirus vaccination from Army Preventative Medical Services on Sept. 9, 2021, in Fort Knox, Ky. (Jon Cherry, Getty Images/TNS)

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The Army has now discharged 27 soldiers for refusing the order to receive the mandatory coronavirus vaccination, the service announced Thursday.

The Army announced last week that the first three soldiers were separated from the service for refusing the vaccine. In a weekly update about the vaccination status of the force, another 24 soldiers were listed has kicked out for refusing the vaccine.

The update also reported the vaccinated percentage of the roughly 486,000 active-duty soldiers rose from 96% to 97%.

The Army’s deadline to receive the vaccine passed more than three months ago, and Army Secretary Christine Wormuth ordered commanders on Jan. 31 to begin the process of involuntarily separating those who refused the shots.

Troops do have the option of requesting a permanent exemption for religious or medical reasons, and 4,228 temporary exemptions are in place as the process plays out.

As of Thursday, 694 soldiers have requested permanent medical exemptions with 664 denied and 20 approved. For permanent religious exemptions, 4,034 soldiers have made requests. Of those, 770 were denied while two were approved.

However, 2,735 soldiers are still refusing the vaccine, and 3,275 official written reprimands have been issued related to those refusals. Army commanders have relieved six Army leaders, including two battalion commanders.

The data on refusals and exemptions only include soldiers on active duty, as the Reserve and National Guard have until June 30 to receive vaccines. However, the service said 87% of the Reserve is fully vaccinated.

The Army has moved slower than other service branches when it comes to separating troops for vaccine refusal. The Air Force has separated 212 airmen as of March 15. The Navy announced Wednesday that it has discharged 652 sailors. Of those, 620 were on active duty, 10 were in the Reserve and 22 separations were done at the entry level. The Marine Corps had separated 1,038 Marines as of March 10, according to USNI News.

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Rose L. Thayer is based in Austin, Texas, and she has been covering the western region of the continental U.S. for Stars and Stripes since 2018. Before that she was a reporter for Killeen Daily Herald and a freelance journalist for publications including The Alcalde, Texas Highways and the Austin American-Statesman. She is the spouse of an Army veteran and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism. Her awards include a 2021 Society of Professional Journalists Washington Dateline Award and an Honorable Mention from the Military Reporters and Editors Association for her coverage of crime at Fort Hood.
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