The U.S. Navy announced Wednesday that it will begin separating sailors who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 from the service.
There were 5,731 unvaccinated sailors as of Thursday, which represents 1.65% of the active-duty force.
Removing those sailors could take up to six months.
This comes a day after the Air Force removed 27 people for not following its vaccine mandate.
The Navy says it will not use dishonorable discharges in the removal process. Sailors with less than six months left on their current commitment can apply for a “normal but expedited process.”
While they won’t face a court-martial or dishonorable discharge, sailors who refuse to get vaccinated could lose out on education benefits, promotions and bonus pay. In some situations, they could be forced to repay the cost of their education.
Sailors will be allowed to change their mind and show proof of full vaccination while the separation process is underway in order to remain with the Navy.
The Navy set a deadline of Nov. 28 for all active-duty personnel to get fully vaccinated.
As of Thursday, the Navy had received 2,705 active duty requests for a religious exemption to the vaccine, but has not granted any. There are seven permanent medical exemptions, 326 temporary medical exemptions and 124 administrative exemptions from the vaccine.
The policy is part of the Navy’s goal of reaching a fully vaccinated force as soon as possible.
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