The United States Air Force has discharged 27 service members over their refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine as required by federal mandate.
The development marks what officials believe to be the first military members to be removed for not getting vaccinated.
The Air Force notified its forces that all members had to be vaccinated by November 2, but thousands have either refused or sought certain exemptions for medical, administrative, or religious reasons.
Ann Stefanek, spokeswoman for the Air Force, said on Monday that these airmen are the first to be discharged for reasons related to the COVID-19 vaccine. She added that all members were in their first term of enlistment, which means they were younger and lower-ranking personnel.
While the Air Force does not ever disclose the type of discharge a service member receives, legislation is currently making its way through Congress to prevent the military from handing out dishonorable discharges for troops who refuse the vaccine.
Earlier this year, orders from the Pentagon required the vaccine for all members of the military, which included active duty, National Guard, and the Reserves. Each branch set its own deadlines and procedures, and the Air Force had set the earliest time by which members were to be vaccinated.
Stefanek said that none of the 27 airmen who were discharged had sought any type of exemption either medical, administrative, or religious.
The latest data from the Air Force shows that over 1,000 have refused the vaccine, and more than 4,700 are currently seeking a religious exemption. Across much of the military, 96,4 percent of active duty personnel have received one shot, but when the National Guard and Reserve are included, that number drops to about 74 percent.
ARTICLE: ELIZABETH HERTZBERG
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: WBTV.COM
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