ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) —
Any active-component Airman or Guardian who has refused to obtain a qualifying vaccine by Nov. 2 and has not received, or, is not in the process of seeking, a medical exemption or religious accommodation will be in violation of a lawful order and subject to discipline under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
As of Oct. 18, 96.2% of the active-component population has at least one shot, according to Air Force officials. The percentage of the total force with at least one shot is 92.8%.
“Thank you to the hundreds of thousands of total force Airmen and Guardians who are fully vaccinated or on track to meet the Department’s vaccination timelines,” said Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall. “To those yet to get vaccinated, the order is clear: You have a responsibility to take action now, protect our nation and those we love, or be held accountable for failing to do so.”
Should a service member refuse to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, commanders retain the full range of disciplinary options available to them under law and policy, some of which includes issuing administrative paperwork, imposing nonjudicial punishment, or referring court-martial charges.
Prior to taking action against a service member, commanders will coordinate initial disposition with the first O-6 with special court-martial convening authority in the service members’ chain of command, and should consult with their servicing Staff Judge Advocate for additional guidance on vaccination non-compliance.
The Department of the Air Force is also holding new recruits accountable, recently discharging nearly 40 Air Force Basic Military and Technical trainees under “Entry Level Separation” characterizations who refused the vaccine.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III mandated all members of the Armed Forces receive the COVID-19 vaccine Aug. 24, following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
Additionally, Department of the Air Force civilian employees must comply with the Sep. 9 Executive Order, or EO, requiring all federal employees be fully vaccinated to ensure the health and safety of the federal workforce and halt the spread of COVID-19.
Department of the Air Force civilian employees need to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 22, and contractors by Dec. 8, in accordance with the Presidential EO. The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force has issued guidance here with additional DAF guidance forthcoming.
“I get at least one notification a day about an Air Force or Space Force teammate we have needlessly lost to COVID,” said Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones. “The data is clear—the vaccine is the best tool to fight this disease. This is about readiness and ensuring our Airmen and Guardians are healthy and ready to defend the Nation.”
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