U.S. Army begins discharging soldiers who refuse COVID-19 vaccine

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A syringe is filled with a dose of Pfizer's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at a pop-up community vaccination center at the Gateway World Christian Center in Valley Stream, New York, U.S., February 23, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

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WASHINGTON, Feb 2 (Reuters) - U.S. soldiers who refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine will be immediately discharged, the U.S. Army said on Wednesday, saying the move was critical to maintain combat readiness

The Army's order applies to regular Army soldiers, active-duty Army reservists and cadets unless they have approved or pending exemptions, it said in a statement.

The discharge order is the latest from a U.S. military branch removing unvaccinated service membersamid the pandemicafter the Pentagon made the vaccine mandatory for all service members in August 2021.

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The vast majority of all active duty troops have received at least one dose. Roughly 79 uniformed military personnel across the different services have died from the novel coronavirus. read more

"Army readiness depends on soldiers who are prepared to train, deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said. "Unvaccinated soldiers present risk to the force and jeopardize readiness."

Other branches of the U.S. military, including the U.S. Air Force, have already begun to remove those who have chosen not to receive a COVID vaccine, which were first authorized for emergency use in December 2020.

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Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Mark porter

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