NORFOLK, Va. - The U.S. Navy announced Thursday over 98 percent of active-duty Sailors have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
As for what happens to the remaining hold-outs, the Navy says those who refuse to get vaccinated without an exemption will be administratively discharged under what's being called the COVID Consolidated Disposition Authority.
The Sailors who are separating only for vaccine refusal will receive no lower than a general discharge under honorable conditions, but the Navy says that could result in the loss of some veterans' benefits.
Sailors have until November 28 to be fully vaccinated. Those in the Selected Reserve have until December 28.
Other branches of the military have their own deadlines for full vaccination, with the Army's the latest in December.
On Thursday, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) held a round table discussion with military leaders and defense contractors in Norfolk about how to convince the remaining hold-outs to get the shots.
"We need to keep pushing those numbers up to the high 90s. The mandate, I think at the end of the day, is having the effect that was intended. People are getting vaccinated," Warner said.
Warner asked representatives from the Navy, Air Force, Newport News Shipbuilding and other organizations for ideas and strategies to get people vaccinated.
The short answer is there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Jon Arena, an attorney for Newport News Shipbuilding, addressed that during the discussion. NNSB has given employees until December 8 to be vaccinated.
"Some folks when they're faced with their livelihood being taken away - a lot of folks are going to roger up to that," said Arena. "Some folks when you tell them you have to do this or else, that's exactly not what they're going to do."
Still, the military leaders say vaccination is now part of the mission.
"Medical readiness is combat readiness. Our jobs as commanders is to make sure our forces are ready to fight our nation's war," said Col. Gregory Beaulieu, the Commander of the 633d Air Base Wing at Joint Base Langley-Eustis.
The military leaders say they hope further discussion and examples will help convince the remaining hold-outs. Capt. John Hewitt, Chief of Staff for Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, said he was not worried about what would happen if there are remaining unvaccinated Sailors at the deadline.
"We're not because it's just like any other consideration in the chain of command. If there's not in compliance with a lawful order, we have the UCMJ and chain of command that can deal with it," said Hewitt.