- The US Department of Defense on Saturday said it stood by its decision to require COVID-19 vaccination for troops.
- Oklahoma’s new adjutant general this week issued a memo, saying he wouldn’t enforce the mandate for members of its National Guard.
- Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican who appointed the adjutant general, previously asked the DOD to reconsider the mandate.
The US Department of Defense on Saturday stood by its vaccine mandate after Oklahoma’s new Adjutant Gen. Thomas Mancino in a letter said the state would not enforce the COVID-19 vaccine requirement for its members of its National Guard.
“We are aware of the memo issued by the Oklahoma Adjutant General regarding COVID vaccination for Guardsmen and the governor’s letter requesting exemption. We will respond to the governor appropriately,” John Kirby, a spokesperson for the Pentagon, told CNN.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stood by the mandate, the spokesperson told CNN.
“That is why he has ordered mandatory vaccines for the total force, and that includes our National Guard, who contribute significantly to national missions at home and abroad,” Kirby added, according to the report.
In a memo issued this week, Mancino ordered that “no Oklahoma Guardsman be required to take the COVID-19 Vaccine.” He issued the memo the same week he had been named to the position by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican. Mancino still needs to be confirmed by the Oklahoma Senate, according to the CNN report.
The previous adjutant general, Mike Thompson, who had supported the vaccine mandate, was abruptly removed from his position Wednesday, according to the local outlet Fox 25. Thompson said he learned of his replacement on Twitter, according to the report.
Thompson told Fox 25 to “ask the Governor” if asked if he believed his views on vaccination played a role in his removal.
Stitt in a November 2 letter to Austin had asked for the DOD to reconsider the vaccine mandate for Guardsmen.
“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. All of our national guardsmen take this calling very seriously,” he wrote.
In the letter, Stitt said the state estimated about 800 members – about 10% – of its National Guardsmen were not vaccinated against COVID-19 and did not plan to receive a vaccination.
Multiple states have sued to block the Biden administration from imposing a larger vaccine mandate or weekly testing mandate on businesses with more than 100 employees, which was scheduled to take effect January 4 before a federal appeals court in New Orleans temporarily blocked it.
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