3 Cadets Who Refused Vaccine Won't Be Commissioned

Air Force Academy says they'll still receive bachelor degrees, while a fourth had a change of heart
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 14, 2022 1:00 PM CDT
Updated May 21, 2022 4:30 PM CDT
4 Air Force Cadets May Pay for Refusing COVID Vaccine
Air Force Academy cadets make their way to their seats as family and friends cheer from the stands during the Air Force Academy's graduation ceremony in May 2021.   (Chancey Bush/The Gazette via AP, File)

Update: Three cadets who refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will receive bachelor degrees, the Air Force Academy said Saturday, but they won't be commissioned as military officers. The secretary of the Air Force will decide whether the three will have to reimburse the federal government for their education costs, given that they won't be serving, the AP reports. A fourth cadet who had refused the shots decided about a week ago to be vaccinated, a spokesman for the academy said, and will graduate as scheduled and become an officer. Our original story from May 14 follows:

Four cadets at the Air Force Academy may not graduate or be commissioned as military officers this month because they have refused the COVID-19 vaccine, and they may be required to pay back thousands of dollars in tuition costs, Air Force officials said. It's the only military academy, so far, where cadets may face such penalties, the AP reports. The Army and Navy said that as of now, none of their seniors is being prevented from graduating at the Military Academy at West Point or the Naval Academy in Annapolis due to vaccine refusals. The graduations are in about two weeks.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last year made the COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for service members, including those at the military academies, saying the vaccine is critical to maintaining military readiness and the health of the force. Military leaders have argued that troops for decades have been required to get as many as 17 vaccines to maintain the health of the force, particularly those deploying overseas. Students arriving at the military academies get a regimen of shots on their first day—including those for measles, mumps, and Rubella—if they aren't already vaccinated. And they routinely receive regular flu shots in the fall.

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Members of Congress, the military, and the public have questioned if the exemption reviews by the military services have been fair. And there have been multiple lawsuits filed against the mandate, mainly centering on the fact that few service members have been granted religious exemptions from the shots. Until the COVID-19 pandemic, few military members sought religious exemptions to any vaccines. Lt. Col. Brian Maguire, an Air Force Academy spokesman, said the four cadets—who are not named—have been informed of the potential consequences and have met with the academy's superintendent. About 99% of the active-duty Navy and 98% of the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Army have gotten at least one shot.

(More vaccine mandate stories.)

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