Thousands of Air Force soldiers set to reject vaccination mandate
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The Air Force is the first military wing to face a massive denial of the Pentagon’s mandate on the COVID-19 vaccine since its release in August, according to a Washington Post report.
On August 25, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called on all branches of the military to ensure the military receives the vaccine as the numbers rise over the summer. Active duty members have until Nov. 2 to start at least one dose of a vaccination schedule, while National Guard and Reserve members have until Dec. 2 to comply, the said. Air Force September 3.
Some 12,000 staff have refused any vaccination schedule – up from around 60,000 in early October, according to the Post.
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Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday that about 97% of active duty personnel had received at least one injection and about 87% were fully immunized. Total strength has a lower count, with around 82% with at least one dose and around 68% fully vaccinated with no escape for reserve or duty personnel.
A report from Military.com claimed that the number in the Air Force was around 94% at the end of September, but that the vaccination rate in the Air Force has specifically slowed in recent weeks. . The current schedule indicates that military personnel who have not received a vaccination will not be able to start in time to meet the deadline.
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Kirby said the number of members asking for religious exemptions is “very low”.
Possible penalties for refusal include dismissal from service or receiving a charge from the military justice system, but it is not clear to what extent the penalties will be enforced, according to Newsweek.
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“The fact that this is a choice resulting in a potential loss of readiness is striking,” Katherine L. Kuzminski, military policy expert at the Washington Center for New American Security think tank, told The Post.
The Air Force declined to tell the Post how many staff have categorically refused compared to how many have requested an exemption or withdrawn from service, but the service will make certain details public once the deadline has passed.
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The Pentagon directed all questions to the Air Force, which did not respond to a request for comment from Fox News.
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