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First Military Members Discharged for Refusing COVID Vaccine

Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

The Air Force has discharged the first service members for refusing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

The 27 active duty members received counseling about coronavirus vaccines, and when they continued to decline, commanders decided to discharge them for refusing to comply with the Pentagon’s vaccine rule, a spokesperson told The Associated Press.

None of the 27 sought a medical, administrative, or religious exemption. All were in their first term of enlistment and were younger, lower-ranking personnel. They may have had other reasons for their discharge, the AP reported, but refusal to receive a vaccine was one of the reasons for the discharge.

About 97% of the active duty Air Force has received at least one shot. More than 1,000 members have refused to get vaccinated, and more than 4,700 are seeking a religious exemption, the AP reported.

The Department of Defense said in August that service members would be required to receive a vaccine, but the different services were able to set their deadlines. The Air Force set the earliest deadline ― Nov. 2 ― for active duty members to be fully vaccinated. Members of the Marine Corps and Navy had until Nov. 28 to get vaccinated. The Army’s deadline ― Dec. 15 ― is last on the list for active duty members.

Now the different services’ Reserve and Guard forces will need to meet the mandate, with the Marine Corps and Navy deadline coming up on Dec. 28. Members of the Army National Guard and the Reserves have the most time to get vaccinated, with a final deadline of June 30, 2022.

The Air Force, Army, and Navy have outlined their discharge processes for service members who don’t meet the mandate. Each provides counseling about vaccines before moving into disciplinary actions and discharges.

Pentagon data shows that about 96% of the active duty force has received at one dose, the AP reported, while about 74% of the total force, which includes the National Guard and Reserve, has gotten at least one shot.


The Associated Press: “Air Force discharges 27 for refusal to get COVID vaccine.”

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