(PresidentialWire.com)- The Biden administration has issued a vaccine mandate for all members of the military. But, apparently, at least one branch of government is not going along with it.
According to a report published in The Washington Post, more than 10,000 U.S. Air Force members have thus far refused to comply with the mandate issued by President Joe Biden. The deadline for Air Force personnel to be vaccinated is this week, and the Post estimated that roughly 12,000 members won’t meet that deadline.
The Air Force had the earliest deadline for its members to be vaccinated out of all the branches of the military. Members who aren’t vaccinated can be separated from their service.
The Post also reported that almost 96% of “active duty airmen” have received at least one shot in a two-dose regimen of a COVID-19 vaccine. The Air Force has roughly 324,000 of these active-duty airmen.
The Air Force itself hasn’t confirmed any specific numbers as of yet. The branch does plan to release more details in the near future, though, according to spokeswoman Ann Stefanek.
She added that any members of the service who already have been approved for an exit from service who will leave by April 1 of next year will not be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine, if they haven’t already.
How impactful the separation of service would be to the Air Force will really depend on where the separations come from. It could be a greater impact, for instance, if a majority of those unvaccinated are pilots or members of maintenance crew, compared to administrative personnel.
As military policy expert Katherine Kuzminski of the Center for a New American Security said:
“The fact that it’s a choice leading to potential loss to readiness is striking.”
Stefanek said that any service member who was requesting an exemption from the vaccine mandate would have their case sent up the chain of command. Anyone who was seeking an exemption for religious reasons would be forced to meet with a chaplain during that process.
But, John Kirby, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said that religious exemptions aren’t granted often. Thus far, all objections for religious reasons have been rejected by the Navy and Army.
The Air Force also has the power to reject exemption requests that would normally be approved if they feel that haven’t someone who is unvaccinated in a specific unit could ultimately impact its performance negatively.
In total, there will be roughly 2.1 million members of the armed services in the U.S. who are going to be required to be vaccinated under the federal mandate. Some of the deadlines for doing so don’t come up until over the summer, though.
Despite the military having the power to remove members who don’t comply with the mandate, it appears they aren’t in any rush to do that. Mike Hanzel, a lawyer who specializes in military law, said:
“U.S. military leaders are sending a tough message to the troops to get it done. However, my sense is that their goal here is not to punish or separate large numbers of servicemembers, which could be counterproductive to overall readiness, but rather to encourage compliance.”