Nearly 95% of airmen and guards – about 473,000 people – are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, the Air Force Department said on Friday.
At 8 a.m. on Friday, around 23,500 soldiers remained completely unprotected, more than half of whom belong to the Air Force Reserve or the Air National Guard. This represents about one in 20 people in the department.
Almost twice as many Guard and Reserve airmen are unvaccinated as in the active duty component, 14,500 to 8,800. This is the first time that the Air Force has published aggregate data on its operations. efforts to immunize the department of about 501,000 uniformed members.
The Air Force deadline for guards and reservists to complete a one- or two-dose vaccination schedule passed Thursday. Active-duty members of the Air Force and Space Force were to do so by November 2. To be considered fully vaccinated, a person must wait two weeks after their second shot from Moderna or Pfizer, or after just one Johnson & Johnson. dose.
All three versions are approved by the federal government for emergency use, and Pfizer’s Comirnaty vaccine is the only one to date to achieve full approval for people 16 years of age and older.
Currently, less than 1% of the total strength remains partially immunized, which means that around 4,000 people have only received one of two doses of Moderna or Pfizer.
More than 4,800 exemptions have been approved for people with certain medical conditions, such as myocarditis or a known allergy to a component of the vaccine, and for those who will soon be leaving the military.
Some 2,300 people from the Guard and Reserve have been granted administrative exemptions, indicating that they are considering leaving the service of their own accord. Some 1,200 other guards and reservists are exempted for medical reasons.
Authorities have not approved any requests for religious exemptions, citing the continuing threat of the deadly virus to public health and military readiness issues. The service still processes around 10,500 requests for religious exemptions, including nearly 6,000 from guards and reservists.
Those hoping for religious waiver outnumber those who have categorically refused in writing to be vaccinated or who simply did not make an appointment. Of the more than 10,000 applicants for the exemption, approximately 4,800 did not begin the vaccination process and 3,200 refused.
Few of those whose exemption requests were rejected appealed. Others chose to get the shots fired after being refused, while still others chose to begin the process of leaving the military.
Military and health experts have expressed concerns about the extent to which guard and reserve units will comply with the Pentagon’s vaccination mandate.
More part-time military personnel in areas with low immunization rates may bring local vaccine skepticism and strong feelings against immunization to military personnel, and may not be required to be immunized for their purposes. regular work. They are also at risk of serious illness for themselves and others if they become infected with COVID-19 in their civilian jobs or in the healthcare facilities they have assisted since early 2020.
To limit the spread of the disease and possibly encourage jabbing, the Air Force has started restricting what its members are allowed to do without being vaccinated.
As of November 29, aviators on active duty who are not fully vaccinated or who are still awaiting a decision on their exemption request, can no longer benefit from a permanent change of position, which limits their career options to the ‘to come up.
If an airman or guard cannot deploy for at least a year because they haven’t completed their fires, the Air Force will consider keeping them or starting the process of deporting them, the service said on a question-and-answer page. . Each case will be treated individually; the time it takes to fire someone depends on several factors, including the length of their service.
“Willingly disobeying a legal order is incompatible with military service, and getting vaccinated is a legal order,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said in a town hall meeting online Nov. 18. “We have to do a lot of things to take care of ourselves. of strength health, and people had to get vaccinated for a number of things. “
It is not known how many of the Air Force’s 152,500 permanent full-time civilian employees were fully immunized by the Nov. 22 deadline. Air Force Public Affairs referred a request for data on Nov. 29 to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, which referred the request to the Department of Defense. The Defense Secretary’s office did not respond to the request as of December 3.
About 93% of DoD’s active and civilian service personnel have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the OMB said in a Nov. 24 statement. The office did not break down the figures by full immunization status or by civilian data only.
Contractors who work with the Air Force Department must be fully immunized against the coronavirus by December 8.
Nearly 782,000 Americans, including 142 Air Force employees, contractors and dependents, have died so far during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seventy-five percent of Americans aged 5 and over have received at least one injection so far; serious side effects are rare.
Cases of rupture are possible, but the virus is more easily contracted, and more likely to have serious repercussions, in the unvaccinated. Unvaccinated people are nearly six times more likely to catch the coronavirus, 10 times more likely to be hospitalized and 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who are vaccinated, the CDC said.
Rachel Cohen joined the Air Force Times as a senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has been featured in Air Force Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), The Washington Post and others. .