With one estimate putting the number of unvaccinated active-duty service members at 40,000, the U.S. Air Force has begun the process of discharging troops who have refused to abide by the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate.
The Air Force was the first branch of the military to hit its deadline for vaccinations. Although the service has booted its first contingent of service members for non-compliance, there are still thousands who have appealed for exemptions.
Data published last week by The Washington Post estimated that overall, about 40,000 active-duty personnel have so far refused to be vaccinated.
The Post said that about 14,000 Army personnel have not been vaccinated, with another 25,000 members of the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps who have sought exemptions from the vaccine.
The report said that 10,700 troops in the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard are not vaccinated, even after that branch’s Dec. 2 deadline.
NBC’s numbers estimated that more than 1,000 active-duty Air Force and Space Force members have refused the vaccine and that about 4,700 are seeking religious exemptions.
The 27 active duty Air Force personnel were discharged for failure to obey a lawful order, Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek said. None had been granted exemptions, she added.
Stefanek said all 27 service members were in their first six-year enlistments.
Stefanek stated vaccine refusal was one factor in the discharges, but that misconduct could have been a factor in some discharges.
Good. They need to discharge the rest of those who refuse to get vaccinated.
It threatens readiness for health reasons and insubordination.https://t.co/0yWmnyti9R
— Vacci-Nation – Boosted!! (@preferspuppies) December 14, 2021
“For those who refused to obey a lawful order to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, commanders will continue to take appropriate administrative and disciplinary actions consistent with law and Department of the Air Force policy,” the service said in a statement.
US service members separated from the mil for refusing COVID-19 vaccine would have to receive an honorable discharge or a general discharge under honorable conditions under a must-pass defense bill. They’d be entitled to veterans benefits. https://t.co/3t1CucriNu
— Carlyle Gordon (@lcby) December 8, 2021
Service members discharged for refusing the vaccine could also be forced to repay special or incentive pay, the Air Force indicated.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said last week that roughly 90 percent of America’s active troops are fully vaccinated and about 74 percent of all components, including Reserve and National Guard troops, are fully vaccinated, according to CBS.
The deadline for the Army’s active-duty force is Wednesday. The deadline for the Army National Guard is June 30, 2022.
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