3 students from the Air Force Academy who refused to receive the vaccine will not be assigned

Three students scheduled to graduate from the US Air Force Academy who declined COVID-19 The vaccine will not be mandated as military officers, the academy said on Saturday. According to the academy, military cadets will go on to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Academy spokesman Dean Miller said a fourth student who refused the vaccine until about a week ago decided to get the vaccine and would graduate and become an Air Force officer.

While the other three will receive their degrees, Miller said in a statement, “they will not be assigned to enlist in the United States Air Force as long as they remain unprotected.” He added that the decision on asking the three to reimburse the United States for education costs in lieu of service would be made by the Secretary of the Air Force.

As of Saturday, the Air Force Academy is the only US military academy not assigned to cadets due to a vaccine refusal. All of the 1,000-plus cadets graduated from the US Military Academy in West Point, New York, commissioned as officers earlier in the day and all vaccinated.

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The Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, said Saturday that no senior Navy or Marine Corps officers there have been prevented from being commissioned due to a vaccine refusal. Graduation is scheduled for later this week, and the Air Force Academy gala will be held on Wednesday in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Ahead of that ceremony, the US Air Force Academy Board conducted its standard review to see if this year’s class met all of Friday’s graduation requirements.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the scheduled keynote speaker at the Air Force Academy’s graduation ceremony, last year made COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for service members, including those at military academies, saying the vaccine is necessary to maintain military readiness and the health of the force.

Military leaders have argued that troops have been required for decades to have up to 17 vaccines in order to maintain the health of the force, particularly those deployed overseas. Students who make it to military academies get a regimen of injections on their first day — such as measles, mumps, and rubella — if they haven’t already been vaccinated. They routinely get a flu shot in the fall.

Members of Congress, the military, and the public questioned whether the exemption reviews by the military were fair. Multiple lawsuits have been filed against the mandate, focusing mainly on the fact that very few service members were granted religious exemptions from the shots.

Until the COVID-19 vaccine, very few military personnel sought religious exemptions from any vaccines.

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l Col. A week ago, Air Force Academy spokesman Brian Maguire said the four students had been informed of the potential consequences and met with the academy’s director. Then he noticed that they still had plenty of time before graduation to change their minds – and one of them did.

Military academies for years required students under certain conditions to reimburse for education if they left during their junior or first year. These cases often involve students with disciplinary or similar issues. Costs can be $200,000, or more, and any final decision on reimbursement is made by the service secretary.

Across the Army, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps have laid off as many as 4,000 active duty personnel for refusing a vaccine. Those who categorically refuse vaccination without asking for an exemption are still discharged from the hospital. But the courts have halted additional layoffs for service members seeking religious exemptions.

According to the military, up to 20,000 service members have asked for religious exemptions. Thousands were rejected.

About 99% of the Active Navy and 98% of the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Army have had at least one shot.

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