The Air Force has discharged 27 people for refusing to get the coronavirus vaccine. These are the first removals of active-duty Air Force members over the Covid-19 vaccine, according to Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek.

The Air Force had established a deadline of Nov. 2, after which all its members would need a vaccine or an exemption. All 27 of these discharged members had neither a vaccine nor an exemption, whether religious, medical or administrative.

In August, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stated that all members of the military would need to be vaccinated against Covid-19. He said in a memo that “mission-critical inoculation is almost as old as the U.S. military itself.”

The Air Force and Space Force had the earliest deadlines of the military branches. Around 97% of Air Force and Space Force members were fully vaccinated as of Dec. 7, according to statistics from the Department of the Air Force, whose reports include the Space Force.

Overall, the Air Force has had 1,800 discharges this year.

According to Stefanek, all 27 of the service members discharged for vaccine noncompliance were in their first term of enlistment. As such, these members were younger, and of lower rank, having served on the Air Force for fewer than six years.

Stefanek stated that refusal to comply with the vaccine mandate was not necessarily the only factor in the members’ removal. She explained that there could have been other charges of misconduct in addition.

The Air Force has not disclosed whether those removed have received an honorable or dishonorable discharge. However, according to Air Force officials, service members who are removed due to vaccine noncompliance cannot receive involuntary separation pay, and they may have to repay any additional incentives that they did not earn.

Over 1,000 active-duty Air Force members are recorded as having refused the vaccine. Approximately 4,700 are seeking religious exemption, and these requests are currently being decided.

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