Those refusing vaccine subject to discharge, Air Force says

Credit: 412th Test Wing Public Affairs

Credit: 412th Test Wing Public Affairs

Those who refuse ‘subject to initiation of administrative discharge,’ service says

The Air Force reiterated Wednesday that it can discharge Airmen and Guardians who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

And the service also laid out a path for those who have requested separation or retirement before Nov. 2 this year, or whose COVID-19 medical exemption or religious accommodation has been denied.

Further, the Air Force warned those who have been denied a medical exemption or religious accommodation from the vaccine requirement that they have five calendar days from that denial begin a vaccination regimen or appeal to a final authority.

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 Air Force said, echoing a memo from Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall released this week.

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“This will result in the member being subject to initiation of administrative discharge proceedings,” the service said in a statement.

Last week, the Air Force said more than 95% of its total force — active-duty, as well as members of the Reserve and Guard — had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose by the service deadline.

The Air Force could lose or reassign nearly 23,000 members who have not complied with the vaccination order, the Air Force Times has reported.

“Service members who continue to refuse to obey a lawful order to receive the COVID-19 vaccine after their exemption request/final appeal has been denied or retirement/separation has not been approved will be subject to administrative discharge,” the service said.

Service members separated due to refusal of the COVID-19 vaccine will not be eligible for involuntary separation pay and will be subject to recoupment of any unearned special or incentive pays, the Air Force also said.

Unvaccinated Airmen and Space Force Guardians who submitted a request to retire or separate prior to Nov. 2, 2021, with a retirement or separation date on or before April 1, 2022, may be granted an administrative exemption from the vaccination requirement, the Air Force said Wednesday.

“Unvaccinated Airmen or Guardians with a request for medical exemption or religious accommodation are temporarily exempt from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement while their request is under review,” the Air Force said.

Last month, Kendall warned that the requirement to receive the COVID-19 vaccine is a “lawful order” of service members.

“The bottom line is that willfully disobeying a lawful order is incompatible with military service. And to get a vaccination is a lawful order,” Kendall said in a Facebook town hall on Nov. 18. “The secretary of defense put that order out. We’re implementing it in the Air Force.”

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