800 Say ‘No’ at Air Force Vaccine Deadline

November 3, 2021Maggie BenZvi
Army COVID Vaccine

US Navy Seaman Dillon Bothwell, a hospital corpsman, prepares the COVID-19 vaccine to be administered on Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, Feb. 18, 2020. US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Karis Mattingly.

The Air Force says 800 airmen have flatly refused the COVID-19 vaccine and now face administrative punishment. Just under 5,000 more have applied for a religious exemption, though the Air Force says none have so far been granted. Overall, 8,486 airmen remained unvaccinated yesterday as the service’s vaccine deadline passed, or about 3% of the combined active-duty force for the Space Force and Air Force.

The Air Force’s Tuesday, Nov. 2, deadline was the earliest among any military branch. The Navy and Marine Corps said earlier this week that they have also not granted any religious exemptions to the vaccine. The Navy and Marine Corps deadline is Nov. 28, and the Army’s is Dec. 15. Reserve and Guard components are later.

According to final numbers released Wednesday by the Air Force, the service has granted 1,634 medical exemptions and 232 administrative exemptions (primarily for troops who are in the process of retiring or separating). Another 4,933 exemption requests are classified as “in progress.” All troops from all five services are not required to receive the vaccine if they have a pending exemption request.

air force vaccine
US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Rosemary Nantz, a Reserve citizen airman with the 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, receives her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from Tech. Sgt. Sarah Hora, an Air Force Reserve medical technician with the 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Feb. 6, 2021. US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ann Butler.

Another 2,753 were classified as “not started,” a category not defined in an official press release.

In all, 96.9% of the active-duty Air Force was at least partially vaccinated by Nov. 2.

“I am incredibly proud of our Airmen for coming together and getting vaccinated,” Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass said in the release. “This is about readiness and ensuring our Air Force can continue to defend the homeland.”

These numbers do not include any civilian employees of the Air Force, who are also subject to the vaccine mandate. The deadline for civilian employees is Nov. 22.

Read Next: Pentagon Urges ‘Compassion and Understanding’ as Air Force Hits Vaccine Deadline

Maggie BenZvi
Maggie BenZvi

Maggie BenZvi is a contributing editor for Coffee or Die. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Chicago and a master’s degree in human rights from Columbia University, and has worked for the ACLU as well as the International Rescue Committee. She has also completed a summer journalism program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. In addition to her work at Coffee or Die, she’s a stay-at-home mom and, notably, does not drink coffee. Got a tip? Get in touch!

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