The Air Force has discharged 27 service members for refusing to get the Covid-19 vaccine, spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told CNN on Monday, making these likely the first troops to be removed from the military for failure to obey the vaccine mandate.
They were involuntarily separated for failing to follow the lawful order to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, Stefanek said.
The Air Force had the earliest deadline for vaccination, requiring its service members to be fully vaccinated by November 2. Members of the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard had until December 2.
Stefanek said it is unclear whether any of the 27 service members were Space Force Guardians. All the members were in their first enlistments and had served less than six years, so their requests for vaccine exemptions did not go to a board, Stefanek said.
The Air Force had already removed 37 people who refused to get the Covid-19 vaccine during basic training, Stefanek said, making those entry-level separations.
Last week, the Air Force laid out its Covid-19 policy, making it clear that service members who refuse to obey the lawful order to be vaccinated would face disciplinary actions, including discharge from the service without involuntary separation pay.
“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.
In addition, service members discharged for refusing to get the vaccine may have to repay any unearned special or incentive pay.
As of last week, the Air Force had partially or fully vaccinated 97.3% of its active-duty force and approximately 92% of both its air guard and reserve force. The Air Force has 7,365 unvaccinated service members; many of those cases are pending religious exemption requests.
The Air Force has granted 1,080 medical exemptions and 161 administrative exemptions to active-duty service members.
According to the most recent data, 1,060 members of the Air Force have refused to take the vaccine, so more separations are certain.
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