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(Tribune News Service) — Fort Gordon has begun to implement a required COVID-19 vaccination plan after receiving guidance from the Army.

The Army outlined its plan to fully comply with the Secretary of Defense’s order to require all service members to be fully vaccine. Before the order was put in place last month, vaccines were optional.

“This is quite literally a matter of life and death for our soldiers, their families and the communities in which we live,” Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle, the U.S. Army Surgeon General, said in a release. “Case counts and deaths continue to be concerning as the Delta variant spreads, which makes protecting the force through mandatory vaccination a health and readiness priority for the total Army.”

Those who refuse the vaccine will first be counseled by their chain of command and medical providers. Continued failure to comply could result in administrative or non-judicial punishment, which could include relief of duties or discharge, the Army said.

Commanders are to request a general officer memorandum of reprimand be initiated for any soldier who refused to take the vaccine and does not have a pending or approved exemption request. The reprimand can be career ending.

Exemptions can be requested for legitimate medical, religious or administrative reason. Commanders, command sergeants major, first sergeants and officers in Command Select List positions who refuse to be vaccinated and do not have a pending exemption request face suspension and relief if they refuse to comply, according to the army.

Military personnel ranked higher than enlisted soldiers who are in the process of being selected or waiting to be sworn into command positions can have their assignments refused or those promotions canceled if they refuse to get vaccinated.

All active duty units are expected to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 15, while reserve and National Guard units by June 30, 2022.

(c)2021 The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.)

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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

(U.S. Army)

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