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Air Force discharges 27 over Covid vaccine requirement

The 27 airmen who refused to get vaccinated are the first active-duty Air Force members to be discharged over the issue.

The Air Force has discharged 27 active-duty members who refused to get vaccinated against Covid-19 as required, a spokesperson said Monday.

The Pentagon has required vaccinations for members of the military, and the deadline for active-duty Air Force members was Nov. 2. Other branches have different deadlines.

The 27 airmen were discharged for failure to obey a lawful order, and none had exemptions, Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek said.

They are the first active-duty Air Force members to be discharged over the Covid-19 vaccine issue, Stefanek said. All were in their first enlistments, meaning they had served less than six years, she said.

The 27 airmen appear to be among the first active-duty service members to have been discharged for refusing to get vaccinated.

The Air Force and the Space Force had the earliest deadlines to be vaccinated of all military branches.

The vaccines were at least one factor in the 27 discharges; misconduct could have been a factor in some, as well, Stefanek said.

Overall, the Air Force has had more than 1,800 administrative discharges this year, Stefanek said.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in August that the Covid-19 vaccines would be required for members of the military.

Austin said in a memo that requiring vaccination was necessary to protect the military and the country and that "mission-critical inoculation is almost as old as the U.S. military itself."

Around 97 percent of active-duty Air Force and Space Force members had been vaccinated as of Dec. 7, according to statistics from the Department of the Air Force, which includes the Space Force.

More than 1,000 active-duty Air Force and Space Force members are listed as having refused, and about 4,700 are listed as having religious requests in the process of being decided.