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Air Force cadets barred from graduating after refusing COVID vaccine

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Four Air Force Academy cadets may not graduate this month or be deployed as military officers and could be forced to repay thousands in tuition after refusing to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, Air Force officials said.

The Air Force Academy is the only military academy to date to announce penalties for non-vaccination. The Army and Navy said their seniors will not be barred from this month’s graduation ceremony because of their immunization status.

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Air Force Academy spokesman Lt. Col. Brian Maguire said graduation was two weeks away and the cadets still had time to “weigh their options.” There are also two juniors, a sophomore and six freshmen at the academy who have declined the COVID vaccine.

Last year, the Pentagon announced a vaccination mandate for military personnel, including military academies. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the vaccine is critical to the health and preparedness of the military.

United States Space Force Chief of Space Operations General John W. "jay" Raymond (R) salutes graduates from the United States Air Force Academy prior to their graduation at Falcon Stadium May 26, 2021 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

General John W. “Jay” Raymond (R), Chief of Space Operations for the United States Space Force, greets United States Air Force Academy graduates prior to their graduation at Falcon Stadium May 26, 2021 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
(Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

“To defend this nation we need a healthy and operational military force,” Austin wrote in an August memo. “After careful consultation with medical experts and military leaders, and with the support of the President, I have determined that mandatory vaccination against Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is necessary to protect the armed forces and defend the American people. “

Military leaders have said that military personnel have long had to receive a variety of other vaccines to keep the force healthy. Military academy students who are not already vaccinated receive multiple shots including measles, mumps, and rubella shots on day one, and the annual flu shot in the fall.

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U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, left, meets South Korea's Defense Minister Suh Wook at the 53rd Security Consultative Meeting at the Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, December 2, 2021. (Jeon Heon-kyun /Pool Photo via AP)

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, left, meets South Korea’s Defense Minister Suh Wook at the 53rd Security Consultative Meeting at the Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, December 2, 2021. (Jeon Heon-kyun /Pool Photo via AP)
(Jeon Heon-kyun/Pool Photo via AP)

The military’s vaccination exemption reviews have been questioned by members of Congress, the military and the public as to the fairness of the reviews.

Several lawsuits have also been filed against the vaccination mandate, with the main focus being the fact that very few religious exemptions have been granted.

Military academies have in the past, under certain circumstances, required tuition refunds if they drop out during junior or senior year. These cases often involve students with disciplinary problems. The Service Secretariat will make the final decision on reimbursement.

The Marine Corps, Navy, Army and Air Force have fired nearly 4,000 active duty personnel for refusing to be vaccinated. Recent data released by the services shows that more than 2,100 Marines, 900 Sailors, 500 Army Soldiers and 360 Airmen have been laid off. At least 50 service members were discharged during entry-level training.

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Lurie Children's Hospital Nurse Carolyn Ruyle prepares a dose of a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Friday, November 5, 2021 at Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago. Health officials hailed vaccination for children ages 5 to 11 as a major breakthrough after more than 18 months of illness, hospitalizations, deaths and interrupted education. (AP Photo/Nam Y Huh)

Lurie Children’s Hospital Nurse Carolyn Ruyle prepares a dose of a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Friday, November 5, 2021 at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. Health officials hailed vaccination for children ages 5 to 11 as a major breakthrough after more than 18 months of illness, hospitalizations, deaths and interrupted education. (AP Photo/Nam Y Huh)
(AP Photo/Nam Y Huh)

Military personnel who refused the vaccine without requesting a waiver continue to be fired, while layoffs of those involved in court cases are being held up amid litigation.

The military has said as many as 20,000 military members have requested a religion exemption and that thousands of such requests have been denied.

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About 99% of the active-duty Navy and 98% of the Air Force, Marine Corps and Army have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

https://www.foxnews.com/us/air-force-cadets-may-not-graduate-refusing-covid-vaccine Air Force cadets barred from graduating after refusing COVID vaccine

Alley Einstein

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