Air Force approves 9 religious exemptions as 3,288 remain pending

U.S. Air Force Col. Louis Perino (left), the Georgia Air National Guard state air surgeon, discusses vaccination plans with Maj. Frances Burress (right), an aerospace medicine physician assistant with the Georgia Air National Guard’s 116th Medical Group, 116th Air Control Wing at Clay National Guard Center, Marietta, Georgia, March 23, 2021. The Georgia National Guard is vaccinating Soldiers and Airmen to combat COVID-19. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Bryant Wine)

Thomas Gnau

Dayton Daily News, Ohio

The Air Force has approved the first religious exemptions from the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, with eight exemptions approved, along with one appeal that had sought an exemption.

The Air Force gave the numbers in a release Tuesday.

By far, most of those seeking exemptions or accommodations on religious grounds have been rebuffed or remain pending. Among exemptions requested from major commands or field commands, 3,222 have been denied, as were an additional 443 requests from the Department of the Air Force, according to the service’s data Tuesday.

A total of 3,288 religious accommodation requests were pending as of Monday.

Appeals are determined by the Air Force’s surgeon general with input from a chaplain and staff judge advocate. Individuals do not have to get immunized as long as their request is being decided, the service has said.

As of Monday, the Air Force had administratively separated 142 active-duty Airmen for declining the vaccine.

These numbers don’t include civilians.

The service has emphasized that those who refuse to obey the order to be vaccinated will face disciplinary actions, including discharge from the service without involuntary separation pay.

As of the latest numbers, 97.8% of Air Force active-duty personnel are fully vaccinated. Counting the National Guard and Reserve forces, 96% of personnel are fully vaccinated.

” The Department of the Air Force has approved eight religious accommodations and one religious accommodation appeal,” said Ann Stefanek, Air Force chief of media operations. ” The Department of the Air Force determined the service members’ accommodations could be supported with no impact to mission readiness. We don’t have any additional information for release on these approvals.”

She did not respond to a question about where the exempted service members are stationed.


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