Oct. 29, 2021 — The Air Force will have to decide in coming weeks how to discipline about 12,000 airmen who have rejected orders to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
The deadline for airmen to be fully vaccinated is Tuesday, Nov. 2. Those who aren’t vaccinated could face escalating levels of discipline, including being kicked out of the service or prosecuted in the military’s judicial system.
Readiness problems could occur if the Air Force has to discipline a large number of unvaccinated airmen in vital jobs, such as pilots, Katherine L. Kuzminski, a military policy expert at the Center for a New American Security, told The Washington Post.
“The fact that it’s a choice leading to potential loss to readiness is striking,” she said.
The Air Force has about 324,000 active-duty airmen and says more than 96% of them are fully vaccinated. Some of them may be seeking religious exemptions, but Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told the Post that generally a very small number of such exemptions are granted in the military.
How the Air Force handles the deadline is being closely watched by other branches of the U.S. military that have later vaccination deadlines, the newspaper reported.
Kirby said about 87% of active-duty troops are fully vaccinated but hesitancy among reservists and National Guard members brings down the overall vaccination level to about 68%.
Judge Temporarily Halts Firings for Vaccine Mandate Violations
A federal judge in Washington, D.C., on Thursday issued a temporary restraining order that prevents the Biden administration from firing active-duty military personnel and civilian federal employees while their requests for religious exemptions from vaccine mandates are being considered or appealed, Fox News reported.
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled after 20 people sued Biden over his Sept. 9 executive order mandating vaccinations for federal employees.
NYC Vaccine Mandate Upheld in Court
A judge has rejected a request from the New York City police union that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vaccine mandate be put on hold, CBS News reported.
De Blasio’s order says all city employees, including first responders, need to be fully vaccinated by Friday or else they could face disciplinary action, including dismissal from their jobs.
The Police Benevolent Association requested a temporary restraining order, saying the city policy doesn’t provide sufficient religious or medical exemptions and doesn’t give unvaccinated officers enough time to apply for exemptions, CBS News said.
In a statement, Police Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch said the ruling “sets up the city for a real crisis” because it will result in fewer officers being available to work.