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What military members could face if they don't meet deadlines to get COVID-19 vaccine

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Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR
Military members have been required to get vaccinated for COVID-19 since August 24th, when the Food and Drug Administration gave the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine full authorization.

In August, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered all members of the military to be vaccinated for COVID-19. So, what exactly happens to those who refuse?

Col. Aaron Bohrer, who is based at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, says the military has been giving vaccines "pretty much since the Army was established," and that the majority of soldiers at his base are vaccinated.

"When it became mandatory, on the 24th of August, most people lined up and got their shot," Col. Bohrer says. "There are those that have questions, and we have procedures for that. But, again, the vaccinations aren't new to the military at all."

If a soldier refuses to get the COVID-19 vaccine, there is a multi-step procedure in place. These include a CDC informational video, a meeting with a medical professional to answer any questions about the vaccine and time in between to reconsider their decision.

Should the soldier still refuse to comply with the order to be vaccinated their commander can begin the process for an administrative action that becomes part of their permanent record that could affect future chances for promotion.

The military is not currently discharging members for their vaccination decisions. However, if vaccination numbers are too low that protocol could "potentially change," according to Col. Bohrer.

When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
Elizabeth Ruiz is a freelance producer for KCUR’s Up To Date. Contact her at elizabeth@kcur.org or on Twitter at @er_bentley_ruiz
As Up To Date’s associate producer, I construct daily conversations that give our listeners context to the issues of our time. I strive to provide a platform that holds those in power accountable, while also spotlighting the voices of Kansas City’s creatives and visionaries that may otherwise go unheard. Email me at zach@kcur.org.