Pentagon Rescinds COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate, Questions Remain for Separated Sailors

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin officially rescinded the COVID-19 vaccine mandate Tuesday evening in a memo, stopping any more military separations due to refusal to get the shot series. Congress, through the National Defense Authorization Act 2023, ordered the Department of Defense to rescind the vaccine mandate, which Austin ordered in August 2021 upon FDA […]

Seaman Apprentice Johnnese Poomaihealani, from Waianae, Hawaii, receives a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot during a shot event in the foc’sle aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) on Jan. 3, 2022. US Navy Photo

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin officially rescinded the COVID-19 vaccine mandate Tuesday evening in a memo, stopping any more military separations due to refusal to get the shot series.

Congress, through the National Defense Authorization Act 2023, ordered the Department of Defense to rescind the vaccine mandate, which Austin ordered in August 2021 upon FDA approval of the Pfizer version of the vaccine. The memo Tuesday officially ends the mandate after the DoD paused all activity around the mandate after President Joe Biden signed the NDAA into law. However, the memo does not address what will happen to sailors who were already separated due to failure to get the vaccine.

Now that the mandate is rescinded, the DoD will cease any investigations into service members who were not vaccinated or requested an exemption, including religious ones, according to the memo. The department will also update records of those currently serving to remove any adverse actions against them over their failure to get vaccinated under the mandate. This includes letters of reprimand.

The memo does not address whether service members who were already separated will be allowed back into the service. It does say they can petition for a change in the characterization of their discharge.

“For Service members administratively discharged on the sole basis that the Service member failed to obey a lawful order to receive a vaccine for COVID-19, the Department is precluded by law from awarding any characterization less than a general (under honorable conditions) discharge,” according to the memo. “Former Service members may petition their Military Department’s Discharge Review Boards and Boards for Correction of Military or Naval Records to individually request a correction to their personnel records, including records regarding the characterization of their discharge.”

The Department of Defense’s vaccination policies, outside of the now rescinded mandate, remain, according to the memo.

“These include the ability of commanders to consider, as appropriate, the individual immunization status of personnel in making deployment, assignment, and other operational decisions, including when vaccination is required for travel to, or entry into, a foreign nation,” according to the memo.

The department will continue to encourage service members to get the vaccine and the available boosters.

“Vaccination enhances operational readiness and protects the Force,” according to the memo. “All commanders have the responsibility and authority to preserve the Department’s compelling interests in mission accomplishment. This responsibility and authority includes the ability to maintain military readiness, unit cohesion, good order and discipline, and the health and safety of a resilient Joint Force.”

The Navy separated 2,089 active-duty sailors over the year that the COVID-19 vaccine was in effect, USNI News previously reported.

2,100 Sailors in Limbo as Pentagon Grapples With End of COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

The Navy separated 25 active duty sailors between Nov. 28 and Dec. 28 due to their failure to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the service told USNI News. Those sailors are likely the last sea service members to receive approved separations over COVID-19 vaccine refusal under the Pentagon’s prior vaccination mandate. A provision in the Fiscal […]

A Navy Corpsman prepares a vaccine booster. US Navy Photo

The Navy separated 25 active duty sailors between Nov. 28 and Dec. 28 due to their failure to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the service told USNI News. Those sailors are likely the last sea service members to receive approved separations over COVID-19 vaccine refusal under the Pentagon’s prior vaccination mandate.

A provision in the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, signed by President Joe Biden on Dec. 23, removed the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for active-duty service members.

Of the 25 active-duty sailors, one was an officer, while the other 24 were enlisted, Lt. Rachel Maul, a Navy spokesperson with the Chief of Naval Personnel, told USNI News. Approximately 2,100 sailors received approved separations in the year that the COVID-19 vaccine mandate was active.

It is unclear how many sailors had left the service by the time the Biden signed the NDAA and if those with approved separations that had not yet left service will still need to do so.

It also is unclear exactly how the Pentagon will roll out the end of the vaccine mandate and what that means for those who received approved separations. The language in the NDAA did not require the Department of Defense to reinstate service members who had been separated, but it encouraged the Pentagon to look to provide a way for those personnel to rejoin, USNI News previously reported.

Since Biden signed the NDAA into law, the Pentagon paused all actions in regard to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate while working to create additional guidance, Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters Thursday.

The Department of Defense has until Jan. 23 – 30 days from when Biden signed the NDAA – to release the new guidance, Ryder said. Once that guidance is released, individual service branches can then release their own guidelines for how they will implement the new DOD policies.

“I will say that we will continue to encourage all of our service members, civilian employees and our contractor personnel to get vaccinated and boosted to ensure the readiness of our force. And as we’ve said, as I’ve said, the health and readiness of our force will continue to be crucial to our ability to defend the nation,” Ryder told reporters.

One question yet to be answered is if service members who are not vaccinated will be considered operational or deployable. Under the vaccine mandate, those with an exemption or a pending one were considered non-deployable.

As of Thursday, the Navy’s COVID-19 update page was not active.

Congress Urges Pentagon to Fund COVID-19 Detection Dog Study

COVID-19 research in the military is going to the dogs. COVID-19 detecting dogs, to be specific. Language from the text of the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, approved by the House on Thursday, calls for the continued funding of Army research that uses scent detection dogs to sniff out diseases like COVID-19 in […]

COVID-19 detection canine Poncho indicates a positive sample from multiple items presented on a canine training wheel in 2020. US Army Photo

COVID-19 research in the military is going to the dogs. COVID-19 detecting dogs, to be specific.

Language from the text of the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, approved by the House on Thursday, calls for the continued funding of Army research that uses scent detection dogs to sniff out diseases like COVID-19 in their early stages.

While there is no provision for the funding in the version of the NDAA that went before the House and will go to the Senate, the summary of the compromise bill, released Tuesday night, urges the Department of Defense to fund the third phase of the research project.

“This research effort will soon complete Phase 2 and has shown promising results, including an accuracy rate of 89 percent in COVID-19 detection from samples,” according to the summary. “It is important that the Department of Defense fund Phase 3 of this research effort to determine whether the use of working dogs is a feasible method of responding to emerging disease threats in a low-cost, timely, and widely applicable manner.”

The first phase of the project, conducted by the Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Chemical Biological Center with the University of Pennsylvania, used samples of urine and saliva from people who were COVID-19 positive and negative, according to an Army news release. The second phase involved collecting shirts that a person wore overnight.

The second phase, involving the t-shirts, will test if the dogs were able to detect if a person has been infected by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, even if a person is asymptomatic.

As of phase one of the study, the dogs were able to detect a COVID-19 positive person days before a rapid test, according to the news release.

The idea behind the study is that dogs could be able to identify people who are positive for COVID-19 in a large military gathering, according to a news release from the University of Pennsylvania.

The study could also lead to more research into dogs’s abilities to detect other biological threats, Jenna Gadberry, a researcher at the Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Chemical Biological Center, said in the release.

”The way that we’ve been posing this capability to folks is not necessarily a COVID-19 detection capability; it’s a biological threat detection capability,” Gadberry said in the statement. ”We know that this isn’t going to be the last time we see some sort of a virus or pandemic, but we’re demonstrating the ability for dogs to be able to find a positive person or threat. We can take what we learn from the dogs to actually apply it to some of our handheld detectors or laboratory detection systems. They’re able to detect far different elements at this point in time than our laboratory equipment can.”

Dogs have been used to sniff out COVID-19 in other non-military situations as well. Florida International University has been testing dogs to see if they can detect COVID-19, with dogs going to elementary schools to sniff the kids for the disease, according to an NPR article.

The Miami Heat and NASCAR have also used COVID-19 detection dogs, according to the University of Pennsylvania release.

The military’s COVID-19 research extends beyond detection dogs, with various units across the branches getting involved since the beginning of the pandemic.

One such unit was the Naval Medical Research Center, which conducted a study looking at Marine Corps recruits during the pandemic. The study, conducted by Naval Medical Research Center with Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Princeton University, found that men and women had different immune responses to COVID-19, with women having worse symptoms but less viral load.

Women tested in the study had a higher innate immune system activation, Stuart Sealfon, the lead author on the study paper, told USNI News. That early immune response is what causes symptoms when a person gets infected, he said.

“So, the women are mounting a somewhat more vigorous response, which is associated with having more symptoms but less virus,” Sealfon said.

So while women might feel more ill because they have worse symptoms, like a higher fever, their outcome, on average, tended to be better than that of men.

The study captured a baseline level of a protein called interferon, which helps the body attack a pathogen, in the recruits prior to any COVID-19 infection, said Cmdr. Andrew Letizia, science director at Naval Medical Research Unit-2.

The women had higher levels, which helped with their better immune responses, and allowed them to recover quicker, Letizia said.

The study population was overwhelmingly male, given that there are more male recruits than female, but there were still about 200 women in the study, which gave the researchers a large enough sample population.

What made the Navy study stand out is that it was able to follow a population from March to November 2020, Letizia said. During that time frame, the Marine recruits got sick and recovered from COVID-19, allowing the researchers to study their immune responses, while also having a baseline from before they fell ill.

While it was a short amount of time, there were numerous infections, allowing the researchers to collect ample data, Sealfon said.

“It’s a quirk of the pandemic that we were able to have this view of a large number of people before they were affected, during the infection and after infection,” he said. “We have blood samples [to] be able to look at the molecular measurements, that’s not something that would ever happen again.”

The Marine Corps could not shut down during the pandemic, and they still needed to bring in new recruits, Letizia said. That made it possible to do the study, especially since other parts of the country were on lockdown.

The service needed to understand how the virus spreads among a congregate population with a lot of interaction as well as how quickly a person could return to training safely following infection, he said. The study’s goal was to answer some of the fundamental questions and inform mitigation strategies.

Studying the Marine recruits had its pros and cons. While they were able to get the data, the group was healthy 18 to 21-year-olds who were in good physical health, Sealfon said. That means the results of the study cannot be extrapolated to the general public without more research.

The immunological response is just one analysis to come out of the study, Letizia said. The study has produced 10 peer-reviewed papers so far. Another planned analysis is looking at long COVID in the recruits that were infected, he said.

Pentagon Unclear How Military Would Manage End of Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccines

The Pentagon has no ready answers on how the Department of Defense would implement pending legislation that would allow service members to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine without facing separation, officials said this week. Congressional Republicans negotiated with the Democrat-led House and Senate to include language that would rollback the military’s COVID-19 mandate as part of […]

Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Gregzon Fontanilla, from Guam, prepares a COVID-19 vaccine aboard the America-class amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7) on May 10, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Pentagon has no ready answers on how the Department of Defense would implement pending legislation that would allow service members to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine without facing separation, officials said this week.

Congressional Republicans negotiated with the Democrat-led House and Senate to include language that would rollback the military’s COVID-19 mandate as part of the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, according to a bill released late Tuesday.

“Does that August 2021 policy still make sense?” House Armed Services Committee chair Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said on Wednesday. “Is it still the right policy? We don’t believe that it is and I don’t believe that it is”

The new law would nullify the mandate put in place by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in 2021 that required service members to be vaccinated against COVID-19 using either Pfizer or Moderna’s mRNA vaccine, or the one-shot Johnson and Johnson or Novavax vaccines.

Section 525 of the NDAA, released Tuesday night, requires the DoD to remove the COVID-19 mandate.

“We believe in the importance of the Secretary following public health guidance in order to protect the health and welfare of servicemembers and their families, to include mandating vaccines based on readiness requirements,” according to the bill language.

Also included in the NDAA is language calling for the Department of Defense to consider reinstating service members who were separated due to refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine. However, the bill does not demand that the service members who were separated be brought back into the service.

Under the mandate, those who did not comply would be separated. As of Nov. 28, the Navy separated 2,064 sailors, both reservists and active-duty, for failure to get vaccinated against COVID-19. As of Dec. 1, the Marine Corps separated 3,717 Marines.

The language in the NDAA leaves it up to the services to determine if they will reinstate anyone separated for refusal to take the vaccine. It is not clear how the Navy or Marine Corps will handle the service members who were separated. The Navy referred questions about reinstating sailors to the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

It is also unclear if sailors and Marines can be deployed. Currently, any sailor or Marine with a pending or confirmed exemption from the vaccine cannot be deployed due to not having the vaccine, even if they are still part of the Navy.

Sabrina Singh, deputy Pentagon press secretary, declined to answer a question about the deployment status of troops if the vaccine mandate falls, saying she could not comment on pending litigation when asked by reporters on Wednesday. The Pentagon’s legislative team is working with members of the House and Senate to express the secretary of defense’s desire that the vaccine mandate stays.

“We have our legislative team that continues to work with members on the Hill, members of Congress in both chambers,” Singh said. “That’s part of their role and responsibilities and engaging with members on the Hill to make sure that they know where the Secretary’s priorities are. […] I think the Secretary was pretty clear and forceful and his response over the weekend when he said that he supports continuing the vaccine mandate in the NDAA.”

Also up in the air is the question of the sailors who filed religious exemption requests for the vaccine. A decision by a federal judge in March put a preliminary injunction in place barring the Navy from separating them. It is not clear how the NDAA will affect the lawsuit, which is expected to be heard in February in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro spoke against removing the mandate at a Navy League event Tuesday, raising concerns such as what happens to sailors who need to go to countries with strict vaccine requirements.

Congress needs to understand the secondhand consequences of their decisions, the Navy secretary said.

“But unquestionably it’ll create almost two classes of citizens in our services,” Del Toro said. “Those that can’t deploy and those that can deploy. And that creates all sorts of problems.”

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called removing the mandate a mistake during a press conference Wednesday. The president will weigh the entirety of the NDAA, once passed, before deciding if he’ll sign it. She did not say if he will veto due to the removal of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

“What we saw, what we think happened here is Republicans in Congress have decided that they rather fight against the health and well-being of our troops than protecting them, and we believe that it is a mistake,” Jean-Pierre said.

During a Defense Writers’ Group breakfast, Wednesday, Marine Corps commandant Gen. David Berger said that the mandate was political, but vaccination is not. There are multiple vaccines service members receive because it’s required for military readiness. In general, there are nine vaccines required by the military, while others may be needed depending on the geographic area of service.

“Marines know that when their leadership says you need to do something because that’s important to warfighting and your own health, the politics part of it isn’t a part of that,” Berger said.

One of the reasons Republican leaders had for striking the mandate say requiring the vaccine hurts military recruitment and retention. Singh told reporters that there were a host of other reasons, including competition with big companies and eligibility concerns, that were leading to recruitment issues besides the minimal effect of the mandate.

There are recruiting issues from the vaccine mandate, Berger said during a Reagan National Defense Forum panel Saturday. But that is mostly tied to the misinformation about the vaccine preventing people from getting it, he said.

Mat Staver, a lawyer representing a Navy Surface Warfare Commanding Officer among other service members, over the vaccine mandate said he knows service members who are telling their children not to serve because of the vaccine mandate.

Staver welcomed the language in the NDAA, calling the original vaccine mandate unconstitutional.

“It has caused an incredible abuse of the service members of all branches of the military. It has not been effective,” Staver told USNI News. “It has undermined morale, it has been used to punish honorable individuals who are irreplaceable.”

Those who were separated due to vaccine refusal should be reinstated, Staver said. He plans to continue with the lawsuits against the military due to the punishment of his clients for not taking the vaccine.

Even if the services do reinstate service members separated over the vaccine, it is unclear what positions they will be able to hold or if they will be deployable.

The bill language also does not address if the military would need to address service members who chose to retire or leave the service instead of getting vaccinated.

Navy COVID-19 Vaccine Refusal Separations Nears 2,000

The Navy separated 180 active-duty sailors in the past month for refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the sea service’s monthly update. The Navy has separated a total of 1,544 active-duty sailors and 327 reservists for refusing to get the mandatory two-shot vaccine for COVID-19. Another 22 sailors were also released in their […]

A Navy Corpsman prepares a vaccine booster. US Navy Photo

The Navy separated 180 active-duty sailors in the past month for refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the sea service’s monthly update.

The Navy has separated a total of 1,544 active-duty sailors and 327 reservists for refusing to get the mandatory two-shot vaccine for COVID-19. Another 22 sailors were also released in their first 180 days of service, bringing the Navy’s total of separated sailors to 1,893.

The Navy has received 3,318 religious waiver requests from active-duty sailors and 859 from reservists. Under a court ruling, the Navy cannot separate anyone who has submitted a religious exemption request.

The case, which involves approximately 35 special warfare community members, is currently in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Oral testimony in the case is currently scheduled for the week of Feb. 6, 2023.

The Navy has approved 50 religious exemption active-duty sailor requests, which did not increase in the past month. These are likely exemptions for service members who are leaving or retiring from the Navy, USNI News previously reported.

The sea service also approved 24 permanent and 162 medical waivers for active-duty sailors. It approved four permanent and 59 temporary medical exemptions for reservists.

There are also 14 religious exemption requests approved for members of the Individual Ready Reserve and one for the Selected Reserve on the condition that they get fully vaccinated if called to active or reserve status.

Navy Says 2,600 Active Duty Sailors Aren’t Vaccinated Against COVID-19

About 2,600 active-duty sailors remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 a year after the deadline for mandatory vaccination. The Navy separated 177 active-duty sailors over the past month, according to the monthly COVID-19 update. The sea service also separated two members of the reserve for refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19. With the most recent separations, the […]

Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Mark Forrey, from Boise, Idaho, administers a Covid-19 vaccine to Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) Airman Micah Dayoub, from Lancaster, California, aboard aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) on Sep. 9, 2022. US Navy Photo

About 2,600 active-duty sailors remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 a year after the deadline for mandatory vaccination.

The Navy separated 177 active-duty sailors over the past month, according to the monthly COVID-19 update. The sea service also separated two members of the reserve for refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

With the most recent separations, the Navy has dismissed 1,712 sailors from the Navy, all of whom have received an honorable discharge, according to the update.

There are still 3,040 members of the reserve who are not yet vaccinated. The approximately 5,700 reserve and active sailors who are not vaccinated can include those who received administrative or medical exemptions.

That total includes anyone who filed a religious exemption request as the Navy cannot separate sailors who asked for a religious waiver under an active class action lawsuit against the sea service.

The Navy granted 21 permanent and 189 temporary medical exemptions for active-duty sailors and three permanent and 55 temporary medical waivers for reservists.

The sea service granted 14 religious waivers for members of the Individual Ready Reserve and one for a sailor in the Selected Reserve on the conditional basis that mandatory vaccination would apply if called to active or reserve duty.

The Navy also granted 50 religious waivers for active-duty sailors, but these religious exemptions are likely for members of the service who elected to leave or retire, USNI News previously reported.

Navy Exceeds 1,500 COVID-19 Vaccine Refusal Separations

The Navy separated 67 sailors over the past month for refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the sea service announced Wednesday. The Navy has so far separated 1,187 active-duty sailors and 324 reservists since it mandated vaccinations against COVID-19 following the FDA licensure of the Pfizer vaccine, now called Comirnaty. Of the 67 sailors separated […]

Hospitalman Joseph Sanchez, assigned to U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka Branch Health Clinic Sasebo, administers a COVID-19 vaccine booster during a shot exercise for Japanese Master Labor Contract (MLC), Indirect Hire Agreement (IHA), and MarinerÕs Contract (MC) employees employed at Commander, Fleet Activities Sasebo (CFAS) on Feb. 9, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Navy separated 67 sailors over the past month for refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the sea service announced Wednesday.

The Navy has so far separated 1,187 active-duty sailors and 324 reservists since it mandated vaccinations against COVID-19 following the FDA licensure of the Pfizer vaccine, now called Comirnaty.

Of the 67 sailors separated in the past month, 66 were active-duty while one was a reservist. The 1,187 separations do not include 22 separations for sailors in their first 180 days of service.

There are still 3,000 active-duty and 3,376 reserve sailors that are not vaccinated, according to the sea service’s monthly update. This includes sailors who have requested a religious exemption, as the Navy is currently barred from separating sailors with religious waiver requests due to a ruling in the District Court of Texas.

Government officials, including Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, are currently appealing the case in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The service has granted 21 permanent and 189 temporary medical exemptions to active-duty sailors. It gave three permanent and 55 temporary ones to reservists.

Navy Ready to Distribute Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine

The Navy will now have doses of the Novavax vaccine available for sailors. Novavax is the latest company to receive emergency use authorization from the FDA for its vaccine to prevent COVID-19 now an option for active duty troops, who have not yet gotten vaccinated. Unlike the vaccines produced by Pfizer or Moderna, which use […]

Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Gregzon Fontanilla, from Guam, prepares a COVID-19 vaccine aboard the America-class amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7) on May 10, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Navy will now have doses of the Novavax vaccine available for sailors. Novavax is the latest company to receive emergency use authorization from the FDA for its vaccine to prevent COVID-19 now an option for active duty troops, who have not yet gotten vaccinated.

Unlike the vaccines produced by Pfizer or Moderna, which use mRNA, the Novavax shot uses a SARS-CoV-2 recombinant spike protein to produce an autoimmune reaction in order to protect against further infection. The Novavax shot is more traditional and similar to other vaccines against disease like tetanus or HPV.

Some Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials told The Associated Press that the traditional method for the Novavax vaccine might sway the unvaccinated population who have been hesitant to use the mRNA vaccines.

“If you have been waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine built on a different technology than those previously available, now is the time to join the millions of Americans who have been vaccinated,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.

But others say that the new shot won’t sway people who are unvaccinated to get the jab, according to a CNBC report.

It is unclear how the new vaccine will play out with sailors and Marines. As of July 27, there are 3,147 active-duty sailors and 3,432 reservists who are not fully vaccinated, according to the Navy’s monthly COVID-19 update.

There are 4 percent of active-duty Marines and 6 percent of reservists who are not fully vaccinated, according to the service’s monthly COVID-19 updates.

Each service has received thousands of requests to receive a waiver from the vaccine, citing religion, with some specific examples being the vaccine uses stem cell research or that because the Pfizer and Moderna variations used mRNA, it would alter their cells and their bodies, according to one lawsuit, involving a Navy surface warfare commanding officer.

The Novavax vaccine would theoretically be an option that does not violate these concerns because it does not use the same technology. However, the armed forces cannot make unvaccinated service members take the Novavax vaccine because it is currently under emergency use authorization, and federal laws prohibit the military from forcing an EUA vaccine on personnel unless the president signs a waiver.

Emergency use authorization, which is not the same as full authorization, allows medical professionals to give the vaccine without full FDA approval during a crisis. The FDA can grant EUA after reviewing the vaccine and trial data.

The FDA also gave EUA to the vaccines produced by Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen. Pfizer and Moderna have also gotten full FDA approval for use in adults, but the vaccine formulas for kids remains at EUA. The military is able to mandate the troops receive the COVID-19 vaccine because there are two options that have full FDA approval, although service members can receive a EUA vaccine if they would rather.

Lawsuits on behalf of service members have made unverified claims that the military is giving out the EUA version of Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, not the FDA-approved one.

This argument was cited in a board hearing for Navy Lt. Bill Moseley, who was retained after he fought the service over the vaccine, USNI News previously reported.

Moseley’s attorney, in a statement, said that he was able to prove that the Navy was not giving out the FDA approved version of the Pfizer vaccine.

Like many pieces of disinformation, there is a kernel of truth on which people latch, said Dorit Reiss, professor at University California Hastings Law.

The EUA version of Pfizer’s vaccine and the FDA approved one can be used interchangeably, according to the FDA.

When the vaccine first received FDA licensure, there were still EUA shots being given out because no one wanted to throw away good vaccine doses, Reiss said.

“Even if the specific bottle is still the EUA, the approval should be enough to allow the military [to require it]. It doesn’t make sense to require the company or the military to throw away non expired vials just because they have a different sticker, if the product has been licensed,” Reiss said.

Pfizer did slightly change its formula after receiving licensure and received a second license, she said, although the change did not affect the active ingredient. The second license does not cancel the original one, Reiss said.

Navy Nearing 1,500 COVID-19 Vaccine Separations

The Navy separated 259 sailors for their refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in the last month, according to the Navy’s monthly COVID-19 update. Of the total 1,466 separations, 1,121 are active-duty sailors, while 323 are reservists. Another 22 separations are sailors who were in their first 180 days of service. The Navy has the […]

Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Robert Moore, assigned to USS George W. Bush (CVN-77) medical department, administers a COVID-19 vaccine at the McCormick Gym onboard Naval Station Norfolk, April 8, 2021. US Navy Photo

The Navy separated 259 sailors for their refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in the last month, according to the Navy’s monthly COVID-19 update.

Of the total 1,466 separations, 1,121 are active-duty sailors, while 323 are reservists. Another 22 separations are sailors who were in their first 180 days of service.

The Navy has the second highest number of separations of the Department of Defense military branches. The Marine Corps, which leads the services, has separated more than double the number of service members.

As of the last Marine Corps update, published on June 6, the service had separated 3,069 Marines.

The Army has the third highest, with 1,379 separations, slightly below the Navy, it announced July 22. The Air Force has the fewest separations at 834, according to its July 12 update.

The Navy is not able to separate any sailors who have requested a religious exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine due to a ruling in the Fifth Circuit. The Department of Defense has filed an appeal in the case, according to court records.

The Navy received 3,371 requests for religious waivers from active-duty sailors and 873 from reservists. The service has granted 13 religious accommodations to members of the Individual Ready Reserve on the condition that they get vaccinated if called to active-duty or reserve status.

The sea service also granted 19 permanent and 189 temporary medical exemptions to active-duty sailors. It gave three permanent and 65 temporary medical waivers to reservists.

Since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, there have been 102,697 cases of COVID-19 among sailors, according to the Navy statistics, resulting in 17 deaths.

There are 3,147 active-duty and 3,432 reserve sailors who are unvaccinated.

Navy to Move to Monthly COVID-19 Vaccine Separation Reporting

The Navy will move to monthly reporting of COVID-19 vaccine separations, the sea service announced in its now formerly weekly update. The move comes after two weeks of active-duty separations in the single digits. Over the past two weeks, the Navy separated two active-duty sailors and 25 reservists, according to the update. The latest separations […]

Seaman Apprentice Johnnese Poomaihealani, from Waianae, Hawaii, receives a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot during a shot event in the foc’sle aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) on Jan. 3, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Navy will move to monthly reporting of COVID-19 vaccine separations, the sea service announced in its now formerly weekly update.

The move comes after two weeks of active-duty separations in the single digits. Over the past two weeks, the Navy separated two active-duty sailors and 25 reservists, according to the update.

The latest separations bring the total to 998 active-duty and 209 reservists.

There are 3,371 active-duty sailors and 3,448 reservists who are not fully vaccinated, as mandated by the Department of Defense. This includes sailors with granted or pending exemptions as well as those who have submitted a religious accommodation request.

The Navy cannot currently separate anyone who submitted a religious exemption against the COVID-19 vaccine due to a legal ruling in the Fifth Circuit.

The lack of approved religious exemptions was debated in the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday as congressional members went through the proposed National Defense Authorization Act.

The Navy has approved 45 active-duty requests for religious exemptions, although it is unclear how many of the exemptions were for people who planned to retire or leave the service instead of getting vaccinated.

Among the amendments proposed before HASC was one extending the honorable or general discharge characterization for separations. HASC approved the amendment.

Natural immunity as an alternative has been used in multiple lawsuits against the military branches, including the Navy. It was cited in the case brought against the Navy by Navy SEALs and by a commanding officer who is unvaccinated.

Recently, lawsuits have begun mentioning the idea that the FDA-approved Pfizer vaccine, which is marked under brand name Comirnaty, is a different formula than the version of the Pfizer vaccine, which received emergency use authorization.

This was also the reasoning given in a recent board case for Lt. Bill Moseley, whose lawyer wrote in a statement that the Navy found that the two versions were different and that Moseley was only offered the EUA version.

The Navy could not comment on the specifics of the board, but did confirm that Moseley was retained by the Navy.

According to the FDA, Comirnaty and the EUA-version of Pfizer given to those older than 16 are the same. The formula is different for the EUA-version given to those under 16.

“The FDA-approved Comirnaty (COVID-19 Vaccine, mRNA) and the two EUA-authorized formulations of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for individuals 12 years of age and older, when prepared according to their respective instructions for use, can be used interchangeably,” according to the FDA.