COLORADO SPRINGS — A point of contention between Air Force cadets and the Academy is now going to court and has expanded to include additional service members.
This year, the Air Force Academy (AFA) released information regarding four of its cadets who’d refused to submit to the COVID-19 vaccine. Since that time, one of those cadets did receive the vaccine, one submitted paperwork to resign, and two others refused the vaccination.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for service members last year, including those at military academies. Austin said the vaccine is critical in maintaining military readiness as well as the health of the force.
General Paul Moga, Commandant of Cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy, said the only exemptions are for those with medical reasons.
“There is a very small number that got exception policy waivers approved for medical reasons, but all the others are showing up fully vaccinated,” General Moga said.
Two cadets were ultimately allowed to graduate, but they were not commissioned into the U.S. Air Force, per a review by the U.S. Air Force Academy Board.
In June, a lawsuit was filed against the Superintendents of the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
Also included in the list of defendants are Lloyd J Austin, III, U.S. Secretary of Defense and Steven W. Gilland, Major General, Army, among others.
There are 24 plaintiffs.
One of the attorneys on the lawsuit is John Michels Jr. a partner at Federal Practice Group in Washington, D.C. Previously, he challenge the anthrax vaccine mandate for troops arguing it had not received final approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
He compared the COVID-19 vaccine mandate to the anthrax vaccine mandate in 2004.
“Similarly in the fact that the bureaucratic response to this vaccine and getting this vaccine out with COVID has been very similar to the bureaucratic responses we saw with anthrax, and the same kind of inconsistency. The same kind of bureaucratic confusion with respect to what are we actually dealing with,” Michels said.
The complaint brings to issue Austin’s requirement that all service members receive an “unapproved and unlicensed SARS-CoV-2 (‘COVID-19’) vaccine disregards his own agency’s requirements to determine whether an individual vaccine recipient has natural immunity.”
The complaint also includes allegations that religious exemption requests were “categorically denied” and calls mandatory vaccination programs “contrary to service regulation and federal law, and unconstitutional.”
A statement provided by Lt. Col. Brian Maguire, Director, Public Affairs, U.S. Air Force Academy said, in part:
“We provided resources and information to the cadets in order to make a decision and graduate with the Class of 2022. The majority of our religious accommodation requests centered on the use of stem cells in the development and/or production of the currently available vaccines. There are vaccines available that did not use stem cells in the development, testing or production, which was presented as an option. The cadets refused to commit to this vaccine. Another USAFA staff member used their own resources to obtain the Novavax vaccine and is now in compliance with DoD policy. We have taken every step and continued to work to protect the religious freedom of our cadets and staff. These cadets are not out of time. If they start a vaccine regimen and commit to finishing it according to the FDA/CDC recommendations, they can graduate and commission with the rest of the class on May 25. They must be fully vaccinated by Aug. 1. We want to see these cadets graduate and commission, but they must meet the military requirements necessary for a ready force.”