Air Force Vax

Air Force Separated 610 Airmen For Refusing COVID-19 Vaccine

The Air Force separated 610 Airmen for declining the COVID-19 vaccination during the time it was required, from the fall of 2021 through late 2022, Undersecretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones told the House Armed Services Committee on Feb. 28.

In all, 40 Airmen resigned and 14 officers retired.

Congress rescinded the COVID-19 vaccination mandate in the Fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, and the services are required to clear the records of unvaccinated service members still in uniform.

Ortiz Jones said 98 percent of the Department of the Air Force’s Total Force was vaccinated. That includes roughly 500,000 Active-duty Air Force and Space Force members, along with those in the Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve.

Among Active duty Airmen and Guardians, 99 percent are vaccinated, compared with 94.3 percent for the Air National Guard, and 95.9 percent for the Air Force Reserve.

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall on Feb. 24 officially halted adverse actions against Airmen and Guardians who declined the vaccine.

In a memo to the force, he said personnel records would be changed to remove or redact penalties and negative actions taken solely as a result of their refusal to accept the vaccines.

These changes require no action from the Airmen, he said, so long as the official file contains a request for a waiver.

Unvaccinated Airmen who never submitted an accommodation request for exemption from the vaccine must have to initiate the process to have the record considered for review.

“If you are currently serving and submitted an accommodation request, and if the adverse action is tied solely to your refusal of the vaccine, then the Air Force Personnel Center is taking steps now to remove that adverse paperwork from your file,” Ortiz Jones said.

She noted, however, if the refusals coincided with other misconduct, only the vaccine-related actions would be set aside. Discipline for other behavior will not be removed.

“I want to be clear about the caveat,” she said. “If there are aggravating factors, other misconduct, then that’ll have to be reviewed for what may be appropriate.”

If a service member was already separated, that individual must go to the discharge review board for any military record changes. . . . . (read more on Air & Space Forces)

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