Q. If I have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine, how soon must I be fully vaccinated?
A. As soon as operations allow, starting immediately. Commanders, Commanding Officers, and Officers in Charge shall direct unvaccinated Active Duty and Ready Reserve Coast Guard members to initiate the COVID-19 vaccination regimen immediately, and in doing so shall ensure members are scheduled and made available to receive the vaccine.
Q: Is the COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for all service members?
A: Yes. All Coast Guard active duty and Ready Reserve members who are not fully vaccinated, and do not fall within an approved exception, must now be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Q. If I am unvaccinated, can I get any vaccine I want?
A. Coast Guard Active Duty and Ready Reserve members may choose to receive any COVID-19 vaccine that is fully approved by the FDA, administered under the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), or is included on the World Health Organization Emergency Use Listing.
Coast Guard Active Duty and Ready Reserve members shall be provided any vaccine that has received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licensure. Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, which was licensed by the FDA on 23 August 2021, meets this requirement.
For now, if you receive any of these three vaccines – Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson/Janssen – in accordance with their dosing and timing requirements, you will be considered fully vaccinated.
Q. Given this mandate, am I still required to be vaccinated if I already had COVID-19?
A. Yes. Previous COVID-19 infection does not satisfy the vaccine mandate. Military members with previous COVID-19 infection are not considered fully vaccinated based solely on having been infected, and must be vaccinated. Consistent with the Secretary of Defense’s direction, all Coast Guard active duty and Ready Reserve members who are not fully vaccinated, and do not fall within an approved exception, must now be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Q: Do I need to do anything if I’m already fully vaccinated?
A: If you were vaccinated at a Coast Guard clinic, no further action is required.
If you were vaccinated by a non-Coast Guard provider before the order for mandatory vaccinations was issued and have not yet reported your status to a Coast Guard medical provider, you must do so as soon as possible. Those members who get vaccinated outside of a Coast Guard clinic shall provide the following information to their respective Coast Guard clinic: (1) date the vaccine was administered, (2) the vaccine name or code, (3) the manufacturer and lot number, (4) the dose administered, and (5) the vaccination provider (i.e. Walgreens, CVS, etc). Providing false vaccination information is a violation of Article 107, Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), and may also result in administrative and/or disciplinary action.
Q. Why is the Coast Guard mandating military vaccinations now?
A. After months of infections and hospitalizations going down, there has been a steep rise in COVID-19 cases due to the rapid spread of the Delta variant. Delta puts us in a much more challenging situation because it is significantly more transmissible, with evidence that it causes more serious disease. Due to the variant’s highly transmissible nature, it is spreading widely among the unvaccinated populations, putting them at great risk. This negatively impacts the readiness of military units and increases demands on military hospitals and clinics.
Additionally, the COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be safe and very effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths. As we do with other deadly infections, we want to protect Coast Guard personnel, our families, and our communities through the best tool available, vaccination. Further, a fully vaccinated workforce helps ensure mission readiness. Required vaccination to protect personnel is routine for the Coast Guard, including annual influenza vaccination. In concert with Department of Defense (DoD) guidance, the Coast Guard currently requires vaccines for individuals entering military service and other vaccines depending on the Service member’s role and geographic region.
Q. What makes Service members different from federal employees when it comes to enforcing certain requirements?
A. Vaccine requirements are tied to personal medical readiness, and are designed to afford Service members with the best protections available so they can perform missions across the globe.
Required vaccinations are nothing new to the U.S. military. In concert with Department of Defense (DoD) guidance, the Coast Guard currently requires vaccines for individuals entering military service and other vaccines depending on the Service member’s role and geographic region.
Q. What happens if a Service member refuses to get the vaccine?
A. The requirement to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 constitutes a lawful order. Refusal by Coast Guard Active Duty and Ready Reserve members to fully vaccinate against COVID-19 in the timelines prescribed, absent an approved medical exemption or approved religious accommodation, will constitute a failure to obey a lawful order. This order is punishable under Article 92 of the UCMJ, and may result in punitive and/or administrative action, including initiation of discharge proceedings.
The Coast Guard will determine additional measures necessary to mitigate health risks to members of the Service and our communities posed by those who are not yet vaccinated. These measures may include additional restrictions on official travel, liberty, and leave, as well as cancellation of “A” and “C” school orders. The implementation of additional guidance on mandatory vaccinations is forthcoming.
Q: Are there authorized exemptions from the mandatory vaccination requirement?
A: Coast Guard policy allows, in some circumstances, medical exemptions and religious accommodations.
Under current Coast Guard policy in COMDTINST M6230.4G (a joint directive with other military services), a medical exemption includes any medical contraindication relevant to a specific vaccine or other medication, according to published recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).
COMDTINST 1000.15, Military Religious Accommodation, provides the policy and procedures for requesting a religious accommodation.
Q: What is the process for requesting a medical exemption?
A. Members seeking a medical exemption from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement should notify their primary health care provider, who will review and forward the request to Chief of Preventive Medicine (CG-1121) for final decision.
Members that previously had medical exemptions for COVID-19 vaccination must re-submit their request for exemption to CG-1121, via their primary health care provider.
Q: Will there be a religious accommodation?
A. The Coast Guard will also consider an accommodation for a sincerely held religious belief. The Office of Military Personnel Policy, COMDT (CG-133) will adjudicate requests for religious accommodation consistent with Military Religious Accommodations, COMDTINST 1000.15. Requests for a religious accommodation are granted or denied on a case-by-case basis and will be informed by input from the member’s command, medical, judge advocate, and military chaplain.
Q: What is the process for requesting a religious accommodation?
A. Members should notify either their chaplain or Commanding Officer (CO) of their request for a religious accommodation. The member must submit a written request to their CO pursuant to Military Religious Accommodations, COMDTINST 1000.15. COs/OICs will consult with their servicing legal office while adjudicating member requests for religious accommodation. The member will then be counseled by their CO and a military physician, and must arrange an interview with a military chaplain. Once the counseling and interview is completed and documented, the command will forward the request through the appropriate chain and the Office of Health Services (CG-112), then to the Office of Military Personnel Policy (CG-133) for final decision.
Q. Does the Coast Guard have a plan to distribute and administer the vaccine to all Service members?
A. Yes. Continuing the Service’s ongoing efforts to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, the Coast Guard will ensure that military members are administered the vaccine in a timely fashion. Vaccines are readily available at Coast Guard clinics, military treatment facilities, and civilian healthcare providers.
Q. Are there enough vaccines available now to handle the surge in demand?
A. Yes. Vaccines are readily available at Coast Guard clinics, military treatment facilities, and civilian healthcare providers. Additional COVID-19 vaccines are being delivered to Coast Guard clinics to accelerate vaccination of the entire workforce and are available for any Active Duty or Ready Reserve member.