Samuel Case, FISM News
The U.S. Navy will no longer consider a sailor’s COVID-19 vaccination status when making decisions about deployment, per new guidance issued on Thursday. The move reverses a policy that has been in place for more than a year.
“Commanders should seek advice from medical providers regarding medical readiness of personnel to inform deployment and other operational mission decisions,” the updated guidance said. “COVID-19 vaccination status shall not be a consideration in assessing individual service member suitability for deployment or other operational missions.”
The new guidance does not address personnel who were separated from the Navy for refusing the vaccine. It also gives commanders the authority to implement future health-related requirements at any time.
“Commanders retain the authority to implement Health Protection Measures at any time or manner deemed necessary in support of operational safety and effectiveness, and where necessary, to restrict movement of service members in order to comply with host nation quarantine regulations,” the Navy says.
In January, the Pentagon officially ended the vaccine mandate for all U.S. military forces but didn’t provide a path back to active duty for the more than 8,400 troops who were terminated for refusing the vaccine.
Congress moved to end the military vaccine requirement as part of the National Defense Authorization Act last year.
A group of Republican Senators have since introduced legislation that would require the U.S. Department of Defense to offer reinstatement to service members who were fired over the mandate.
Regardless, Mike Berry, Director of Military Affairs for First Liberty Institute, told Fox News that the Navy’s updated guidance is “an encouraging step.”
“We are still assessing the impact of this policy on our Navy SEAL clients and more than 4,000 class members,” said Berry, whose organization represents 35 Navy SEALS. “But this is an encouraging step towards ensuring the Navy does not continue to discriminate against sailors who sought religious exemptions from the Covid vaccine requirement.”
The move comes as the Biden administration will allow the COVID-19 national emergency and public health emergency to officially expire on May 11.