Oklahoma Gov. asks Pentagon to drop vaccine mandate for National Guardsmen

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) is asking Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to suspend the Pentagon’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for members of the Oklahoma National Guard.

In a letter to Austin, Stitt said Tuesday that the 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.” 

“These are patriotic citizens who are willing to put their lives on the line to protect others in our communities during times of greatest need,” Stitt said.

Austin ordered all service members to “immediately” get vaccinated against COVID-19 in late August after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s two-dose vaccine.  

About 97 percent of the total force has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Monday.

Deadlines for the mandate differ between the military branches. The first deadline, for active duty Air Force personnel, is Tuesday, while all air National Guard members and reservists have to be vaccinated by Dec. 2. 

Meanwhile, all active duty Army troops have to be vaccinated by Dec. 15, while Army reservists and National Guard units have to be fully vaccinated by June 30, 2022.

In his letter, Stitt told Austin that he estimates over 800 Oklahoma guardsmen “have not and do not plan” on getting vaccinated, representing 10 percent of the total force.

The governor said it was “irresponsible” to impose the mandate, which could “potentially limit the number of individuals that I can call upon to assist the state during an emergency.”

“I sincerely ask that you reconsider the policy of mandating COVID-19 vaccination for all national guardsmen in Oklahoma,” he continued.

The Hill has reached out to the Pentagon for comment. 

The letter comes as the GOP sounds the alarm on the Pentagon’s vaccine mandate and the Biden administration’s forthcoming mandates for private employers and federal contractors.

Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe (R), the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote a letter to Austin asking him to suspend the mandate last month.

“At a time when our adversaries continue to increase their quantitative and qualitative advantage against our forces, we should seek to ensure that no policy, even unintentionally, hinders military readiness,” Inhofe said at the time.

Tags Jim Inhofe John Kirby Kevin Stitt Lloyd Austin National Guard Oklahoma vaccine mandates

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