About 650 Minnesota National Guard members remained unvaccinated ahead of Thursday’s deadline, putting them at risk of being discharged.
Army Lt. Col. Kristen Augé, the National Guard’s state public affairs officer, told Alpha News in a statement that of those 650 members, 2% (13) have requested religious or medical accommodations for the COVID-19 vaccine.
“These requests are awaiting disposition from the Departments of the Army and Air Force,” Augé said. “The Minnesota National Guard continues to work with service members who have reservations about the vaccination with dignity and respect.”
Kurt Rauschenberg with the National Guard Bureau of Public Affairs noted that soldiers and airmen are still providing civilian vaccine documentation to be entered into their Electronic Health Record.
“So, the numbers may be higher than what we are currently seeing in the military system,” Rauschenberg said.
Alpha News asked what’s next for members who refuse to get the vaccine.
“We’re going to give every Soldier every opportunity to get vaccinated and continue their military career. We’re not giving up on anybody until the separation paperwork is signed and completed,” Army Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen said in a statement.
Nationally, up to 40,000 members, or about 13%, of the National Guard are unvaccinated and are also at risk of dismissal, according to the Associated Press. At least 14,000 of the unvaccinated have “flatly refused and could be forced out of the service,” per the AP.
“People are our greatest strength and the most valuable resource required to perform our mission. Being vaccinated protects the health and welfare of our women and men to defend our Nation’s freedom,” Augé told Alpha News.
This comes at a time when the National Guard is experiencing a recruitment crisis. Data from the U.S. Department of Defense shows the military fell short of its recruitment goals in 2021, according to CNN.
Earlier this year, the Army offered its largest incentive for new recruits with up to $50,000 for qualified individuals who signed up for a six-year, active-duty enlistment.