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Navy commander loses job after refusing COVID-19 vaccine

A Navy commander has been fired from his job as the executive officer of a warship because he refused to get a COVID-19 vaccine as required and refused to be tested for the virus, Navy officials said Friday.

Cmdr. Lucian Kins was relieved of his duties Friday as second in command of the USS Winston Churchill, a destroyer, by Navy Capt. Ken Anderson, commander of Naval Surface Squadron 14. Officials said Kins was the first naval officer to be fired as a result of a vaccine refusal.

Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Jason Fischer declined to give the precise reason why Kins was relieved of command, citing privacy concerns. Fischer, who is spokesman for the Naval Surface Force Atlantic, said the reason for the firing was that Anderson lost confidence in Kins' ability to perform his duties after he failed to obey a lawful order.

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Other officials, however, said it was because Kins refused the order to get the vaccine, and refused testing to ensure he did not have the virus.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss personnel issues. One official said Kins has requested a religious exemption, which was denied. Kins is appealing that denial.

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The Pentagon has made the vaccine mandatory for all service members, and Navy personnel had until late November to get their shots or request exemptions. Thousands of service members have asked for religious exemptions, but so far none of the military services have approved one.

Fischer said Kins has been reassigned to the staff of Naval Surface Squadron 14.

Lt. Cmdr. Han Yi, the ship's plans and tactics officer, is temporarily serving as the Churchill's executive officer until a permanent replacement is identified.