Last Updated on December 7, 2022

U.S. military personnel who were discharged over their refusal to take a COVID-19 vaccine injection will not return to service after last minute additions to an upcoming defense bill attempted to scrap the mandate. The Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps have discharged at least 8,400 active duty and reserve troops for refusing to take the vaccine, which was mandated for active-duty personnel following a DOD order in August 2021.

Despite the massive concession, current House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has framed the legislation as a big win. “The end of President Biden’s military COVID vaccine mandate is a victory for our military and for common sense,” McCarthy said in a statement. “Last week, I told the president directly: it’s time to end the COVID vaccine mandate and rehire our service members.”

While the legislation directs the Pentagon to scrap its vaccine mandate, it stops short of allowing already discharged troops from returning to their previous posts or positions. In addition, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorizes $857.9 billion in defense spending for the 2023 fiscal year, which amounts to $45 billion more than the Biden administration had requested.

Defense leaders continue to assert that the vaccine mandate enhances “combat readiness” across the military despite overwhelming evidence that the vaccines do nothing to halt the spread of COVID-19. The White House on Monday again endorsed a military vaccination mandate, Fox News reported.

“The Biden administration must go further,” McCarthy said, suggesting that the new GOP-led House of Representatives will look into the mater. House Republicans threatened to vote against the bill if the mandate was left in, though they ultimately made the heavy concession of not allowing previously discharged troops to return to their posts.

A top Marine Corps general recently suggested that the vaccine mandate is a driving factor behind the military’s recent recruiting woes, which has led to shortages of manpower across all branches. “Where it is having an impact for sure is on recruiting, where in parts of the country there’s still myths and misbeliefs about the back story behind it,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said on Saturday.

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