Air Force Grants First Religious Exemptions to COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

President Joe Biden greets members of the military at a FEMA COVID-19 vaccination site Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, at NRG Stadium in Houston.

By Published on February 10, 2022

The Air Force granted the first round of religious exemption requests to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate on Tuesday.

As of publication, the Air Force has granted eight religious accommodations and one religious accommodation appeal, Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek told the Daily Caller News Foundation. A total of 5,786 airmen have submitted religious accommodation requests. The Air Force has rejected 3,665 exemption requests.

“The Department of the Air Force determined the service members’ accommodations could be supported with no impact to mission readiness,” Stefanek said in a statement.

The Air Force has administratively separated 142 active duty Airmen, as of Feb. 7, Stefanek told the DCNF.

The Department of Defense announced that all service members would be mandated to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in an August 2021 memorandum.

“To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force,” the memo stated. “After careful consultation with medical experts and military leadership, and with the support of the President, I have determined that mandatory vaccination against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is necessary to protect the Force and defend the American people.”

The Air Force followed, issuing a mandate for Airmen in early September 2021.

Religious vaccine exemptions have posed a difficult fight for the thousands of service members seeking accommodation. The DCNF recently spoke with Marines seeking religious exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine, with one Marine calling the process for vetting religious exemption requests a “sham” and others echoing this sentiment.

 

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