Air Force Denies Over 3,200 Religious Exemption Appeals for COVID Vaccine

A total of 3,222 requests for religious exemptions to the military COVID vaccine mandate have been rejected by the Air Force, while just nine have been granted and 2,556 are pending, according to new data from the Air Force.

The data released Tuesday also states that 142 active duty airmen have been "administratively separated" as of Monday afternoon.

The Marine Corps is the only other military service that has approved religious exemptions, granting three so far, according to the Associated Press.

The Air Force data states that 97.8 percent of active duty airmen are fully vaccinated, and combined with reserve and National Guard members, the Air Force is 96 percent vaccinated overall.

Eight of the exemption requests were granted on initial review, and one was granted on appeal. The Air Force has denied 443 appeals, while over 2,500 exemption requests and 730 appeals are pending.

The Air Force data also shows that the service has approved 1,476 medical exemptions, which are determined by a service member's medical provider, along with 1,837 administrative exemptions, which are determined on an individual basis. The release states that most of the administrative requests that have been granted are because a service member had a request for "separation or retirement" by November 1.

The AP reported that overall, the U.S. military has seen over 14,000 requests for religious exemptions to the Pentagon's vaccine mandate for all military service members.

Military officials have said that religious exemptions are rarely granted for the up to 17 other vaccines service members are required to get, and therefore COVID vaccine exemptions should be treated the same way, the AP reported.

Last week, the Army became the final military service to announce its intention to discharge service members refusing to comply with the mandate, putting 3,350 soldiers in jeopardy of being removed from that branch. In last week's statement, the Army said 3,073 "official reprimands" had been issued to those who were refusing the vaccine.

"Army readiness depends on soldiers who are prepared to train, deploy, fight and win our nation's wars," Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth said in the news release. "Unvaccinated soldiers present risk to the force and jeopardize readiness. We will begin involuntary separation proceedings for soldiers who refuse the vaccine order and are not pending a final decision on an exemption."

The Marine Corps has discharged 469 service members, and the Navy has discharged 118, according to the AP.

Update 2/8/22 6:17 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information and context regarding other military services.

Air Force COVID Vaccine Mandate Religious Exemptions
The Air Force has approved nine religious exemptions for the military's COVID vaccine mandate, while it has denied over 3,200. Above, a worker at a health center uses a needle to prepare a Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine dose in Cardiff, Wales, on December 8, 2020. Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images