Defense

REPORT: Up To 12,000 Air Force Personnel Defy Pentagon’s Vaccine Mandate

(Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Healthcare Reporter
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As many as 12,000 members of the United States Air Force are not in compliance with the Pentagon’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate despite the deadline to get the shots being days away, according to The Washington Post.

More than 96% of active-duty members are vaccinated at least partially, according to Air Force data reviewed by The Post. The remaining airmen who don’t comply on time may be subject to punishment up to being dismissed from the Air Force.

The Air Force vaccination deadline is the first the Pentagon will have to navigate, with the remaining branches’ deadlines ranging from late-November to summer 2022.

There are 324,000 active duty members of the Air Force, meaning a 3% segment of vaccine holdouts still totals over 10,000 airmen. Some number of those members are seeking exemptions along medical or religious grounds, and the Air Force will release more information after the deadline passes on the makeup of the unvaccinated airmen, spokesperson Ann Stefanek said. Some may be nearing retirement, while others may be outright defying the order to get vaccinated.

So far, vaccine exemptions have been few and far between. The Army has only granted one medical exemption for the COVID-19 vaccine so far, while the Navy has not granted a religious exemption for any vaccine in the last seven years, according to The Post. (RELATED: Navy Announces New Protocol For Sailors Who Refuse COVID-19 Vaccine)

More than 86% of active duty troops have been fully vaccinated, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said this week. Kirby added that, generally speaking, the number of religious exemptions granted for any vaccine is “very, very small.”