The British Army is considering disciplining troops who are reluctant to take a COVID-19 vaccine, according to official military documents seen by the Daily Mail.
Orders to the Royal Artillery and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers that were reportedly issued earlier this week, warn that anyone who is refusing to have a coronavirus jab "is to be educated by the CoC [Chain of Command] and any rumours quashed".
The documents stipulate that if the person in question "still refuses, they may be deemed as unfit to soldier and dealt with accordingly as the CV-19 jab may be a requirement to deploy on operations/exercises, much like yellow fever".
Lewis Cherry, a leading UK military lawyer, told the Daily Mail the tone of the orders may amount to "threats" or "bullying".
Members of the British Army 1st Battalion, The Rifles mounts a morning raid during Exercise MAPLE RESOLVE in Wainwright, Alberta on May 4, 2021.#Canada #ukarmy #army pic.twitter.com/bhJQQ4EwLo— julio / Caronte (@jmscaronte) May 12, 2021
Referring to the vaccine, he said that "unless this becomes a compulsory injection it remains a medical procedure that requires informed consent".
Under British law, the military cannot force soldiers to get jabs, but being "unfit to soldier" is an offence under the Armed Forces Act.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) pledged to remain "committed to keeping our staff, their families, and communities safe at home and overseas", adding that "all our personnel are being vaccinated in line with national priority guidelines".
"The FCDO [Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office] and Defence are working jointly to ensure UK Government and Armed Forces personnel overseas within the first nine priority groups are offered a vaccine in line with the UK population, including those in Defence Overseas Bases and Operational areas", the ministry told the Daily Mail.
The remarks came as hesitancy about receiving a vaccine was blamed on the surge in infections of the Indian variant of COVID-19 in certain parts of the UK.