“As I’ve said before, vaccination of the Force will save lives and is essential to our readiness,” Austin wrote in his memo.
Austin issued that memo after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt asked for the vaccine mandate to be suspended for the Oklahoma National Guard. Stitt said estimates show more than 800 Oklahoma Guardsmen have not received or are not planning to get the COVID-19 vaccine and that they represent 10% of the state’s overall force.
“This mandate violates the personal freedoms of many Oklahomans, as it asks them to potentially sacrifice their personal beliefs in order to not lose their jobs,” the Republican governor wrote Austin, adding: “It is irresponsible for the federal government to place mandatory vaccine obligations on Oklahoma National Guardsmen which could potentially limit the number of individuals that I can call upon to assist the state during an emergency.”
“As I've said before, vaccination of the Force will save lives and is essential to our readiness."
- Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in a memo
The Associated Press reported Monday that Austin rejected Stitt’s request, saying all Oklahoma National Guardsmen must comply with the vaccination requirements and that failing to do so “may lead to a prohibition on the member’s participation in drills and training” and “jeopardize the member’s status in the National Guard.”
As of Nov. 24, 1.5 million U.S. military servicemembers — including Guardsmen and reservists — and 341,836 Defense Department civilian employees have been fully vaccinated, federal statistics show. Meanwhile, 392,077 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded among servicemembers and Defense Department civilian employees, their dependents and contractors. Of those, 5,529 have been hospitalized, 377,602 have recovered and 607 have died from COVID-19.