Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Services Will Make Call on Religious Exemptions to COVID-19 Vaccines

Image of Two medical people prepare syringes with doses of the COVID-19 vaccine . Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Yan Wang, with the Naval Hospital Yokosuka, and Laurei Fernandes, an American Red Cross volunteer and registered nurse, prepare syringes with doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccine distribution event at Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka’s Hawk’s Nest in Yokosuka, Japan, May 20, 2021. For service members who have religious objections to receiving a vaccine, the path for how they might seek an exception to the vaccine is defined by their individual military service's regulations, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said. (U.S. Navy photo by Tetsuya Morita)

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

In a memorandum released Aug. 9, 2021, the secretary of defense explained how he will ensure the continued health and safety of the U.S military through the use of the available COVID-19 vaccines.

"I will seek the President's approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September, or immediately upon the U.S. Food and Drug Administration licensure, whichever comes first," said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III.

Right now, there are three COVID-19 vaccines available. All are currently being used across the United States under "emergency use authorization," or EUA, from the Food and Drug Administration.

Those vaccines include the ones from Pfizer and Moderna, both of which require two injections. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only a single shot.

If any of the three vaccines receive full licensure by the FDA before mid-September, Austin said, they will become mandatory immediately. If they do not receive the licensure by mid-September, however, the secretary will request a waiver from the president to make them mandatory.

For service members who have religious objections to receiving a vaccine, the path for how they might seek an exception to the vaccine is defined by their individual military service's regulations, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said during a meeting with the media on Aug. 10, 2021.

"There is a religious exemption possibility for any mandatory vaccine, and there's a process that we go through to counsel the individual both from a medical and from a command perspective about using a religious exemption," Kirby said.

Counseling, he said, includes a discussion with both a medical professional and a commander about the risks of not being vaccinated as well as how not being vaccinated might affect deployability, assignments or travel. Requests for religious exemption differ by service, he said.

"We take freedom of religion and worship seriously, in the military, it's one of the things that we sign up to defend," he said. "And so it's something that's done very carefully."

There are exemptions for mandatory vaccines for medical reasons as well, Kirby said, including pre-existing medical conditions.

"The primary care physician will be able to help make that determination," he said.

Nevertheless, the defense secretary and the department are confident that once the vaccines are mandatory, service members will do their part.

"We have every expectation that once the vaccines are made mandatory, the troops are going to ... do the right thing," he said. "Going forward with this particular vaccine, the secretary's expectation is that commanders are going to treat the administration of that vaccine with — as he wrote in his memo — professionalism, skill and compassion."

Kirby also said the department will ensure that every individual with reservations about getting a vaccine gets proper counseling on its safety and efficacy as well as how not getting the vaccine could affect teammates, readiness and the mission.

You also may be interested in...

DHA Form 207: COVID-19 Vaccine Screening and Immunization Document v22

Form/Template
9/9/2022

The purpose of this form is to determine if the COVID-19 vaccine can be administered to the patient. (v22, Sept. 2022)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Immunization Healthcare Division | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Information for Military Treatment Facility Directors | Coronavirus

DHA Form 236: Pediatric (5-11 years) COVID-19 Vaccine Screening and Immunization Documentation, v8

Form/Template
1/7/2022

This form is used to determine if the COVID-19 vaccine can be administered to the pediatric patient. (Version 8, June 2022)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Children's Health | Immunization Healthcare Division

DHA Form 207: COVID-19 Vaccine Screening and Immunization Document, v22

Form/Template
3/25/2021

The purpose of this form is to determine if the COVID-19 vaccine can be administered to the patient. (v22, Sept. 2022)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | COVID-19 Information for Military Treatment Facility Directors

Patient Global Impression Change Scale

Form/Template
5/1/2015

Form filled out by patients to rate their changes in activity, symptoms, emotions and quality of life.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Health Readiness & Combat Support | Disability Evaluation | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence

Neurobehavioral Symptom Inventory Form

Form/Template
4/30/2015

Form used by providers to question patients about their symptoms

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Disability Evaluation | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Health Readiness & Combat Support

Military Acute Concussion Evaluation 2012

Form/Template
4/30/2015

Use this form to screen for concussions

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Disability Evaluation | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Health Readiness & Combat Support

Neuroimaging following TBI in non deployed setting

Form/Template
7/8/2013

The guidance contained in this CR represents a review of currently published literature and expert contributions obtained by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) in collaboration with clinical subject matter experts representing the Services, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), academic, research and civilian sectors.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health | Disability Evaluation | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence

DCoE Concussion Management Algorithm Cards

Form/Template
10/8/2012

Combat Medic/Corpsman Algorithm Card to diagnose a concussion in a deployed setting

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Disability Evaluation | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Health Readiness & Combat Support
Showing results 1 - 8 Page 1 of 1
Refine your search
Last Updated: August 13, 2021

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.