Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall directed the COVID-19 vaccine implementation guidelines for Department of the Air Force total force military members Sept. 3, in accordance with the Secretary of Defense mandate last month.
The service implementation plan requires Airmen and Guardians to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the following dates, unless seeking an exemption:
· Nov. 2 – Active Duty personnel
· Dec. 2 – Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve personnel
Vaccinations will help ensure service members’ health and safety while preserving the department’s readiness and ability to execute worldwide air and space forces missions, according to department leaders.
“We are taking an aggressive approach to protect our service members, their families and their communities from COVID-19 and the highly transmissible Delta variant,” said Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones. “As members of the nation’s Armed Forces, our Airmen and Guardians must be able to respond to situations around the globe — being fully vaccinated will help us safely meet the readiness requirements that our national security depends on.”
Mandatory vaccination through a military provider will initially only include the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA COVID-19 ® vaccine (widely referred to as “Comirnaty®” upon receipt of U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval), which is currently the only vaccine approved by the FDA. Airmen and Guardians may continue to volunteer to receive the COVID-19 vaccines approved under Emergency Use Authorization, including Moderna, Janssen and AstraZeneca, from both military and civilian providers.
Service members are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after completing the second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine, or two weeks after receiving a single dose of a one-dose vaccine. This includes one or two-dose options authorized under EUA or full FDA approval.
Airmen and Guardians who have proof of vaccination documented in their medical records per this definition will be considered as meeting the vaccination requirement.
Prior to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, service members have access to healthcare providers and chaplains to address questions or concerns with COVID-19 vaccination. Additionally, commanders must consult with their servicing Staff Judge Advocate for additional guidance on vaccination non-compliance.
Service members have the option to apply for medical or administrative exemption, including religious accommodations. The process for obtaining exemptions for all mandatory vaccinations is provided in AFI 48-110_IP, Immunizations and Chemoprophylaxis for the Prevention of Infectious Diseases, for medical exemptions, and DAFI 52-201, Religious Freedom in the Department of the Air Force, for religious accommodations. No exemptions from the vaccine will be approved solely because Airmen and Guardians have an approved retirement or separation date.
Any refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, absent an approved exemption or accommodation, may be punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, or UCMJ. Military commanders retain the full range of disciplinary options available to them under the UCMJ.
For more information, Airmen and Guardians are encouraged to work with their chains of command and local military treatment facilities.