Over two dozen US Air Force service members have been discharged for refusing to get vaccinated against Covid-19 – the first in the US military to be punished over President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate.
The 27 airmen who had been discharged from the force for missing the vaccination deadline were “younger, lower-ranking personnel” and were serving their first term of enlistment, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told the media on Monday.
Unlike others in the US military who have sought religious and medical exemptions from the mandate, the dismissed airmen did not seek any exemptions, she claimed.
Their reason for discharge was officially disobeying an order, however it is not clear whether they received honorable discharges.
Reports indicate that as many as 40,000 US military personnel have refused vaccination against Covid-19 or sought an exemption – roughly 3% of troops.
While some exemptions have been granted, including for medical reasons and for those who were already leaving the military, those seeking a religious exemption saw their requests being dismissed so far, according to the New York Times.
Active-duty Air Force service members had until November 2 to get vaccinated, while Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve personnel were given a December 2 deadline. In the latter group alone, almost 11,000 troops failed to meet the deadline.
Austin has recently been engaged in a standoff with the Oklahoma National Guard over the vaccine mandate, with the state government arguing that its guard should not be beholden to the federal requirement. The Biden administration has threatened to withhold funding from the Oklahoma National Guard should it fail to ensure that its members are fully vaccinated. The Oklahoma government is now suing the Biden administration over the threats.