Federal judge grants preliminary injunction in Air Force vaccine case

Potter Stewart United States Courthouse, Cincinnati.

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Potter Stewart United States Courthouse, Cincinnati.

A federal court in Cincinnati Wednesday granted class certification and a preliminary injunction to protect members of the Air Force from discipline while their lawsuit continues against the Department of Defense’s COVID vaccine mandate.

The plaintiffs in the case have been seeking an exemption from the mandate for religious reasons.

The same judge two weeks ago certified the plaintiffs as a class, in a ruling that affects 80 to 100 Airmen who are serving or have served at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, according to Kentucky attorney Christopher Wiest.

ExploreFrom two weeks ago: Judge temporarily halts Air Force discipline for refusing COVID vaccine

The class is extensive, encompassing Air Force Academy cadets and AFROTC cadets.

In his preliminary injunction order, Judge Matthew McFarland said the class includes: “All active-duty, active Reserve, Reserve, National Guard, inductees, and appointees of the United States Air Force and Space Force, including but not limited to Air Force Academy cadets, Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) cadets, (and) members of the Air Force Reserve Command.”

Defendants, including the Air Force and Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, are “enjoined and restrained from taking any adverse action against any class member on the basis of this lawsuit or his request for religious accommodation from the COVID19 vaccine,” McFarland wrote.

“The temporary exemptions from taking the COVID-19 vaccine currently in place for all class members shall remain in place during the resolution of this litigation,” the judge added.

A spokeswoman for the Department of the Air Force has said the department will comply with court orders. A message seeking comment was sent to the department Friday.

Air Force leaders have argued that vaccinations are an important component of fitness and military readiness.

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