COVID-19 vaccinations will no longer be mandatory for Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel except for special situations, announced the Chief of the Defence Staff earlier this month.
According to the new directive issued on Oct. 14, the requirement to have the vaccine will “be driven by operational necessity.” This means only certain positions and certain operations where the risk is greatest will be required to be vaccinated.
“These requirements will focus on those high-readiness, deployable, or core missions or tasks where an illness would create risk to an individual and/or the mission. The COVID-19 vaccine will no longer be a prerequisite for enrollment; however, new recruits will be informed that future employment within the CAF may require COVID-19 or other vaccinations,” stated Gen. Wayne Eyre, the Chief of the Defence, in a statement.
A Fiercely Debated Mandate
When vaccinations began to roll out in 2021, the Government of Canada mandated that its employees, including members of the CAF, obtain both doses.
According to the CAF, 96 per cent of the CAF is now fully vaccinated, with most choosing to also get booster shots. This has allowed the CAF to relax certain measures and continue to maintain its operational readiness, stated Eyre.
However, the mandate has been fiercely debated, with some CAF members leaving the military in disagreement with the mandate.
“When we issued initial COVID-19 vaccination direction, we did not take that decision lightly. Vaccination was the best option based on scientific and medical evidence to enable the CAF to return to normal levels of operation as quickly as possible. It remains one of the most effective tools to protect our members, society, and to preserve our readiness,” stated Eyre.
The update to the mandate will ensure the CAF maintains its numbers and continues to grow them.
Not a Retroactive Change
The new directive clearly states that the change is not retroactive and can be adjusted as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve. The military continues to reserve the right to mandate vaccination if required.
The CDS also clearly stated that for those who refused to vaccinate during the last year, a record of non-compliance with a lawful order will remain on the member’s file. Additionally, those who chose to release their release will continue.
“These last few years have been difficult for us all, and now is the time to shift our priority to rebuilding and reconstituting our team while continuing to deliver on our primary mission: to defend Canada, its interests and values, and contribute to a safe and peaceful world, all while protecting those we serve, our teammates and ourselves. As always, your dedication to our institution and the mission is appreciated and thank you all for your selfless service to Canada,” said the CDS.