In the Air Force, approximately 12,000 people have refused the COVID-19 vaccine, prompting officials to ask how to handle the significant opposition without causing challenges within the service.
In a story published in the Washington Post, officials warned military personnel who didn’t receive the COVID-19 vaccination would face punishment, including dismissal from service or being charged under military justice. Compliance with the mandate must be completed by Tuesday.
The number of service members rejecting the mandate creates a dilemma for officials: punish those who reject the mandate and possibly cause serious setbacks in units that are supposed to be well prepared for crises, or take back a wide mandate outlined in August by senior military leaders.
As many jobs on the line, including pilots and aircraft maintainers, could be at risk if they discipline those who reject the mandate, according to the Washington Post.
“The fact that it’s a choice leading to potential loss to readiness is striking,” Katherine L. Kuzminski, a military policy expert at the Washington think tank Center for a New American Security, told the news outlet.
If they choose to transition to federal government employees or government contracts, which tend to be frequent next steps for veterans, those who are about to leave the military may face difficulties, according to the Washington Post. More so, most government contractors are required to be vaccinated, including federal workers.
According to the Post, the Air Force has 324,000 members, making it the third-largest military service. This implies that those who reject the vaccination will be a significant number of soldiers even though at a small percentage to its total.
Recent weeks have seen a slowdown in vaccination rates in the Air Force. As of today, complete vaccination procedures cannot be completed by Tuesday.