October 29, 2021 – The Air Force must decide in the coming weeks how to discipline about 12,000 Airmen who have declined orders to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
The deadline for fully vaccinating the aviators is Tuesday November 2nd. Those who are not vaccinated could face increasing disciplinary action, including dismissal from service or persecution by the military’s judicial system.
Readiness issues could arise when the Air Force has to discipline large numbers of unvaccinated Airmen in vital jobs such as pilots, Katherine L. Kuzminski, a military policy expert with the Center for a New American Security, told the Washington Post.
“The fact that it is a decision that leads to a possible loss of readiness is striking,” she said.
The Air Force has approximately 324,000 active Airmen and says more than 96% of them are fully vaccinated. Some of them may call for religious exemptions, but Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told the Post that a very small number of such exemptions are generally granted in the military.
How the Air Force is handling the deadline is being closely monitored by other branches of the U.S. military that have later vaccination deadlines, the newspaper reported.
Kirby said about 87% of active forces are fully vaccinated, but hesitation among reservists and members of the National Guard brings the overall vaccination rate down to about 68%.
Richter temporarily suspends dismissals for violations of the vaccination mandate
A federal judge in Washington, DC, on Thursday issued an injunction preventing the Biden government from firing active military and civil federal employees while their requests for religious exemptions from vaccine mandates are reviewed or challenged, Fox News reported.
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled after 20 people sued Biden over his September 9 executive order mandating vaccinations for federal employees.
NYC’s vaccine mandate upheld in court
A judge has denied a motion by the New York Police Union to suspend Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vaccine mandate, CBS News reported.
De Blasio’s order states that all city workers, including first responders, must be fully vaccinated by Friday, otherwise they face disciplinary action, including dismissal.
The Police Benevolent Association filed for a restraining order, saying city policies don’t provide enough religious or medical exemptions and don’t give unvaccinated officials enough time to request exemptions, CBS News said.
In a statement, Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association, said the ruling “prepares the city for a real crisis” by reducing the number of officers available to work.