Sailors should receive the COVID-19 vaccine booster shot, according to the Navy.
“Although not mandatory, the COVID-19 vaccine booster is strongly recommended,” a new naval administrative message said. “Because all studies are converging on the need for a vaccine booster to ensure enduring protection, it is essentially becoming the next-shot in a series and will likely become mandatory in the near future.”
The guidance applies to all active duty and Reserve sailors who received their final dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine more than six months ago, or received a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine more than two months ago.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon is contemplating imposing a mandatory booster shot policy, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.
“There are discussions in the department about the efficacy of a booster mandatory policy as well,” Kirby told reporters Dec. 10. “Should there be an addition to the [department’s] mandatory vaccine requirement, we will clearly communicate that and be transparent about it.”
Meanwhile, active duty sailors were required to become fully vaccinated by Nov. 28, and sailors in the Navy Reserve face a Dec. 28 deadline. The COVID Consolidated Disposition Authority is overseeing the separation of sailors refusing the vaccine, who also face repercussions tied to education benefits, promotions and bonus pay.
Even so, the Navy has said that it wants to keep sailors and that more than 900 sailors have received the jab after the Nov. 28 deadline.
“Let me be clear up front: We want every sailor to receive the vaccine and stay Navy,” Rear Adm. James Waters III, director of military personnel, plans and policy, told reporters this month. “And if a sailor gets their shot, we will honor that and make every effort to retain them.”
As of Dec. 22, the Navy said a total of 5,361 active duty sailors remain unvaccinated. So far, the service has issued seven permanent medical exemptions, 140 temporary medical exemptions, and 158 administrative exemptions among active duty sailors.
Nearly 2,850 active duty sailors have submitted religious accommodation requests, but the Navy has approved zero.
Sailors will not be processed for separation in the event they have a pending or approved vaccine exemption request. But, if a sailor’s request is denied, sailors must start the vaccination process within five days — or the Navy will get the ball rolling on the separation process.