As many as 20,000 military service members are at risk of being discharged for refusing to get mandated COVID-19 vaccinations.

Disciplinary action against those who are refusing the vaccine began this week with 27 Air Force airmen and 103 Marines discharged on Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

Six leaders were also removed from the Army’s service with ranks that ranged from sergeant to lieutenant colonel, an Army spokesperson told Politico. Two of the leaders were battalion commanders, the Army said in a statement.

The Army also said it plans to begin discharge procedures for as many as 2,700 soldiers starting in January, and the Navy said it will also begin discharging sailors that declined shots and did not seek exemptions.

It was unclear exactly how many service members would be discharged, but about 30,000 are reported by the services to be unvaccinated, with several thousand receiving temporary or permanent medical, religious or administrative exemptions, the Associated Press said. About 1.5% of the approximately 1.3 million active-duty troops are in the process of seeking exemptions or have refused vaccinations.

Marine spokesperson Major Jim Stenger told Business Insider it had approved 1,007 exemptions so far.

The AP said of the exemptions, more than 12,000 service members have filed for religious reasons, while 4,800 Army soldiers and Air Force airmen are refusing to be vaccinated without exemption, the AP said. The Navy and Marine Corps have not released vaccine refusal data.

The Army has 98% of its troops either partly or fully vaccinated, and the Marine Corps has 95% of its service members partly or fully vaccinated, according to the Marine Corps Times. The Air Force has 97.2% of its airmen fully vaccinated, while the Navy has 95% of its seamen fully vaccinated.

US Forces Korea (USFK) administered initial doses of the Moderna vaccine for military and civilian healthcare workers
Thousands of US Air Force employees have yet to be fully vaccinated, but the first deadline is nearing, and defense firms are concerned about potential worker loss. US FORCES KOREA / Handout
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