The US Air Force has a 97 percent vaccine rate for active duty soldiers

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The US Air Force has a 97 percent vaccine rate for active duty soldiers

Military officials said Wednesday that nearly 97 percent of active-duty members of the Air Force – the first branch of the US military to reach its deadline for a coronavirus vaccination – have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This percentage is in line with active-duty military members in most branches of service whose deadlines have not yet come.

Although the 10,636 Air Force members who remain unvaccinated are only a small fraction of the branch’s 326,855 active-duty soldiers, they still represent the vast majority of people who have received a vaccine mandate issued in August. Failing to comply is facing potential expulsion.

Many of them have pending requests for some kind of exemption.

Some 4,933 soldiers have sought religious exemptions, but so far not a single member of the military has been granted a single exemption. A small number have been given administrative exemptions – for example, because they plan to leave the military soon – And others have received medical exemptions, some of which can be refunded if their medical condition changes. The Air Force said it would take 30 days to review all pending waiver requests.

For the entire military, about 97 percent of active-duty forces have at least one dose of the vaccine, and about 88 percent are fully vaccinated. The Navy leads the charge, with about 99 percent having at least one dose. When the National Guard and Reserves are also included, however, they pull the figures down significantly, with only 69 percent of all forces being fully vaccinated. In the Marines, for example, 86 percent of active-duty soldiers are fully vaccinated, but only 52 percent of reserve soldiers are.

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The vaccination deadline for the Navy and Marines is approaching the end of this month. Army, the largest service wing, has fixed the date in mid-December. Members of the guard and reserve will also be given more time in all branches. Civilian Pentagon employees are required to be fully vaccinated by November 22.

Refusing a vaccine without a waiver is grounds for expulsion from the military, but Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III gives commanders wide leeway to decide how to persuade, cajole, and ultimately punish those who won’t take the shot.

“Each case is being treated specifically and individually, as it should be,” Austin’s spokesman John Kirby said this week. “Can we promise you that there will be complete uniformity across the board? No.”

The reluctance of vaccines in the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs shows that in civil society, where vaccination rates are generally low among those who do not face strict vaccine mandates.

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