For refusing to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, three US air force academy cadets won’t be commissioned as military officers, though they will receive college degrees, a spokesperson for the school said Saturday.
Academy spokesperson Dean Miller said in a statement that the three cadets in question won’t be commissioned as air force officers “as long as they remain unvaccinated,” though they would get their bachelor’s of science degrees. The military branch had not decided yet whether to require the trio to reimburse the US for education costs in lieu of service, Miller said.
A fourth cadet who had initially turned down the shot providing protection against Covid-19 ultimately got vaccinated and would graduate with an officer’s commission, Miller added.
The air force academy didn’t identify any of the cadets who were denied officers’ commissions.
The statements from Miller were a reminder that the air force’s was the only US military academy as of now who was preventing its cadets from being commissioned as officers because of vaccine refusals.
Each of the 1,000 cadets who graduated from the US army’s academy at West Point, New York, on Saturday had been vaccinated and would be commissioned. Meanwhile, officials at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, told the Associated Press that none of its Navy or Marine Corps graduates would be blocked from their commissions due to vaccine refusal when their commencement ceremonies occur in the coming weeks.
The air force’s graduation ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday. Chosen as keynote speaker was US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who made Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for military service members and academy students last year.
Austin reasoned that the vaccine was key to keeping the military healthy and ready for action, noting that service members have previously been required to get more than a dozen vaccines for illnesses such as measles, mumps and rubella.
Though Congress members, military officials, members of the public and unsuccessful litigation have questioned whether requests to be exempt from the mandate have been treated fairly, the vast majority of military members have been vaccinated against Covid-19 at least once.
About 99% of those actively serving the Navy, and 98% of the air force, Marine Corps and Army have gotten at least one shot, officials have said.
Nonetheless, the air force last year had to discharge at least 27 people who refused to get the Covid-19 shot and were believed to be the first service members to be dismissed for disobeying Austin’s vaccine mandate.