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COVID-19 Vaccine Deadline: Roughly 13% Of The US Force Likely To Leave Service

Up to 40,000 Army National Guard soldiers across the country — or roughly 13% of the force — have yet to receive the mandated COVID-19 vaccine, and as the deadline approaches, at least 14,000 have flatly refused and may be forced out of service.

Guard personnel have until Thursday to obtain the vaccine. According to data obtained by The Associated Press, between 20% and 30% of Guard soldiers in six states are not vaccinated, and more than 10% in 43 other states still require shots.

Guard leaders say states are doing everything possible to encourage soldiers to get vaccinated before the deadline. They also stated that they will work with the approximately 7,000 people who have requested exemptions, almost all of whom are religious in nature.

“We will provide every soldier with every opportunity to get vaccinated and continue their military career.” “We will continue to support every soldier who is awaiting an exemption,” said Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen, director of the Army National Guard, in an Associated Press interview. “We’re not giving up on anyone until the divorce papers are signed and completed.” It’s not too late.”

Last year, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered that all service members — active-duty, National Guard, and Reserves — receive the vaccine, citing the importance of maintaining the force’s health and readiness. The military services had different deadlines for their forces, and the Army National Guard was given the most time because it is a large force of about 330,000 soldiers spread across the country, many in remote locations.

The Army Guard has the lowest vaccine percentage of any branch of the US military, with the active duty Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps all at 97 percent or higher and the Air Guard at around 94 percent. According to the Army, 90 percent of Army Reserve forces have been partially or completely vaccinated.

The Pentagon has stated that after June 30, Guard members will no longer be paid by the federal government when activated on federal status, which includes monthly drill weekends and a two-week annual training period. Guard troops mobilized on federal status and assigned to the southern border or COVID-19 missions in various states would also be required to be vaccinated or they would be denied participation and payment.

To complicate matters further, Guard soldiers on state activate duty may not be required to be vaccinated, depending on state requirements. They can be paid by the state and used for state missions as long as they are in state duty status.

At least seven governors formally requested that Austin reconsider or not enforce the vaccine mandate for National Guard members, and some filed or joined lawsuits. Austin declined, writing to the governors that the coronavirus “takes our service members out of the fight, temporarily or permanently, and jeopardizes our ability to meet mission requirements.” He stated that Guard troops must get the vaccine or risk losing their Guard status.

Jensen and Maj. Gen. Jill Faris, director of the Joint Surgeon General’s office for the Guard, said they are working with state adjutants general to get progress updates, including on the nearly 20,000 troops who are not flat refusals and have not submitted any type of exemption request. Some may simply be a lag in self-reporting, they said, while others may still be undecided.

“Some of those undefined are our soldiers who say, well, I have until June 30 and so I’ll take until June 30,” Jensen explained.

Others may have promised to bring in vaccination paperwork but have yet to do so. Others are on the books but have not yet reported to basic training, so they do not need to be vaccinated until they do. It is unclear how many people fall into each category.

Jensen acknowledged that if the current numbers hold, there are concerns about the potential impact on state Guard readiness, including whether any Guard units preparing to deploy will be affected.

“When you’re looking at 40,000 soldiers who may be unvaccinated, there are absolutely readiness implications and concerns associated with that,” Jensen said. “That’s a sizable chunk.”

According to AP data, approximately 85 percent of all Army Guard soldiers are fully vaccinated. According to officials, 87 percent of those with one shot are at least partially vaccinated.

Guard soldiers are vaccinated at a higher rate than the general population in all but one state across the country. Only in New Jersey is the percentage of vaccinated Guard soldiers slightly lower than the state’s overall population, according to data collected earlier this month.

The three US territories — the Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico — as well as the District of Columbia, have more than 90% of their soldiers fully vaccinated. Hawaii has the highest percentage, nearly 97 percent, while Oklahoma has the lowest, just under 70 percent.

State guard leaders have run special shot programs and provided as much information to their forces as possible in order to keep them on the job.

In Tennessee, small teams were established in the east, west, and central regions, and monthly events were held to provide vaccines to troops who requested them. Every Wednesday, Guard members could schedule appointments for shots in Smyrna, Tennessee. Furthermore, in early June, they summoned all soldiers who had previously refused the vaccine.

“We had a large, mass event,” Army Guard Col. Keith Evans said. “All of our medical providers were present. So if there were any questions, misconceptions, or misinformation, we had all of our data and could provide them with all of the information.”

Evans, the commander of his Army Guard’s medical readiness command, said there were also recruiting and other leaders present who could explain what would happen if soldiers refused the shot and left the Guard.

“We wanted to let them know what benefits they had earned because these are soldiers who had served their country,” Evans explained.

Officials believe the information campaign is effective. Jensen stated that approximately 1,500 soldiers per week are being vaccinated across the country. “As we get closer to the deadline, we expect to see some larger growth.”

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Up to 40,000 Army National Guard soldiers across the country — or roughly 13% of the force — have yet to receive the mandated COVID-19 vaccine, and as the deadline approaches, at least 14,000 have flatly refused and may be forced out of service.

Guard personnel have until Thursday to obtain the vaccine. According to data obtained by The Associated Press, between 20% and 30% of Guard soldiers in six states are not vaccinated, and more than 10% in 43 other states still require shots.

Guard leaders say states are doing everything possible to encourage soldiers to get vaccinated before the deadline. They also stated that they will work with the approximately 7,000 people who have requested exemptions, almost all of whom are religious in nature.

“We will provide every soldier with every opportunity to get vaccinated and continue their military career.” “We will continue to support every soldier who is awaiting an exemption,” said Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen, director of the Army National Guard, in an Associated Press interview. “We’re not giving up on anyone until the divorce papers are signed and completed.” It’s not too late.”

Last year, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered that all service members — active-duty, National Guard, and Reserves — receive the vaccine, citing the importance of maintaining the force’s health and readiness. The military services had different deadlines for their forces, and the Army National Guard was given the most time because it is a large force of about 330,000 soldiers spread across the country, many in remote locations.

The Army Guard has the lowest vaccine percentage of any branch of the US military, with the active duty Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps all at 97 percent or higher and the Air Guard at around 94 percent. According to the Army, 90 percent of Army Reserve forces have been partially or completely vaccinated.

The Pentagon has stated that after June 30, Guard members will no longer be paid by the federal government when activated on federal status, which includes monthly drill weekends and a two-week annual training period. Guard troops mobilized on federal status and assigned to the southern border or COVID-19 missions in various states would also be required to be vaccinated or they would be denied participation and payment.

To complicate matters further, Guard soldiers on state activate duty may not be required to be vaccinated, depending on state requirements. They can be paid by the state and used for state missions as long as they are in state duty status.

At least seven governors formally requested that Austin reconsider or not enforce the vaccine mandate for National Guard members, and some filed or joined lawsuits. Austin declined, writing to the governors that the coronavirus “takes our service members out of the fight, temporarily or permanently, and jeopardizes our ability to meet mission requirements.” He stated that Guard troops must get the vaccine or risk losing their Guard status.

Jensen and Maj. Gen. Jill Faris, director of the Joint Surgeon General’s office for the Guard, said they are working with state adjutants general to get progress updates, including on the nearly 20,000 troops who are not flat refusals and have not submitted any type of exemption request. Some may simply be a lag in self-reporting, they said, while others may still be undecided.

“Some of those undefined are our soldiers who say, well, I have until June 30 and so I’ll take until June 30,” Jensen explained.

Others may have promised to bring in vaccination paperwork but have yet to do so. Others are on the books but have not yet reported to basic training, so they do not need to be vaccinated until they do. It is unclear how many people fall into each category.

Jensen acknowledged that if the current numbers hold, there are concerns about the potential impact on state Guard readiness, including whether any Guard units preparing to deploy will be affected.

“When you’re looking at 40,000 soldiers who may be unvaccinated, there are absolutely readiness implications and concerns associated with that,” Jensen said. “That’s a sizable chunk.”

According to AP data, approximately 85 percent of all Army Guard soldiers are fully vaccinated. According to officials, 87 percent of those with one shot are at least partially vaccinated.

Guard soldiers are vaccinated at a higher rate than the general population in all but one state across the country. Only in New Jersey is the percentage of vaccinated Guard soldiers slightly lower than the state’s overall population, according to data collected earlier this month.

The three US territories — the Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico — as well as the District of Columbia, have more than 90% of their soldiers fully vaccinated. Hawaii has the highest percentage, nearly 97 percent, while Oklahoma has the lowest, just under 70 percent.

State guard leaders have run special shot programs and provided as much information to their forces as possible in order to keep them on the job.

In Tennessee, small teams were established in the east, west, and central regions, and monthly events were held to provide vaccines to troops who requested them. Every Wednesday, Guard members could schedule appointments for shots in Smyrna, Tennessee. Furthermore, in early June, they summoned all soldiers who had previously refused the vaccine.

“We had a large, mass event,” Army Guard Col. Keith Evans said. “All of our medical providers were present. So if there were any questions, misconceptions, or misinformation, we had all of our data and could provide them with all of the information.”

Evans, the commander of his Army Guard’s medical readiness command, said there were also recruiting and other leaders present who could explain what would happen if soldiers refused the shot and left the Guard.

“We wanted to let them know what benefits they had earned because these are soldiers who had served their country,” Evans explained.

Officials believe the information campaign is effective. Jensen stated that approximately 1,500 soldiers per week are being vaccinated across the country. “As we get closer to the deadline, we expect to see some larger growth.”

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