Air Force

Air Force discharges 27 people for refusing COVID-19 vaccine

The Air Force said Monday that it has discharged 27 personnel for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine. 

All of the personnel were in the first term of enlistment, Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek told The Associated Press, adding that none of them sought medical, administrative or religious exemptions. 

The people are believed to be the first service members to be discharged for not getting inoculated, Stefanek added.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin mandated COVID-19 vaccinations for the military in late August but left it up to each branch to set its own deadlines for compliance.

The Air Force gave active-duty airmen until Nov. 2 to get inoculated, the earliest deadline of the military branches, while giving Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve personnel a Dec. 3 deadline to comply.   

According to the most recent Air Force data published Dec. 7, 94 percent of the total force is vaccinated, including 97 percent of active-duty personnel, and 90 percent each of Guard and Reserve personnel. 

In guidance released last week, the Air Force said that service members whose requests for medical, religious or administrative exemptions are denied are given five calendar days to either begin a vaccine regimen, appeal the denial, or request a separation or retirement.

Those who continue to refuse to get vaccinated after their exemption or appeal is denied will be subject to discharge.

Stefanik didn’t tell the AP what kind of discharge the 27 personnel received for refusing to get vaccinated.

The fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, which the House passed last week, stipulates that service members who are discharged for refusing to get vaccinated are at least granted a general discharge under honorable conditions.

The Senate is expected to pass the legislation this week.

The Hill has reached out to the Air Force for comment.

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