Army secretary reveals that the move is essential for combat readiness after vaccination was made mandatory for service members in August 2021.

US soldiers who refuse to get a Covid-19 vaccine will be immediately discharged, the US army said on Wednesday, saying the move was critical to maintaining combat readiness.

The army’s order applies to regular army soldiers, active-duty army reservists, and cadets unless they have approved or are pending exemptions, it said in a statement.

The discharge order is the latest from a US military branch removing unvaccinated service members amid the pandemic after the Pentagon made the vaccine mandatory for all service members in August 2021.

The vast majority of all active-duty troops have received at least one dose. Roughly 79 uniformed military personnel across the different services have died from the novel coronavirus.

“Army readiness depends on soldiers who are prepared to train, deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars,” the army secretary, Christine Wormuth, said. “Unvaccinated soldiers present a risk to the force and jeopardize readiness.”

Other branches of the US military, including the US air force, have already begun to remove those who have chosen not to receive a Covid vaccine, which was first authorized for emergency use in December 2020.