By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
As of July 6, only 2.5% of Kentucky Army National Guard soldiers have refused a Covid-19 vaccine, thus missing the June 30 federal deadline to get vaccinated. Another 2.5% have asked for an exemption, so 95% are largely in compliance, according to the agency’s public-affairs office.
Of the 6,561 Kentucky Guard soldiers, 6,233, or 95%, have had at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, are awaiting vaccination during their initial training, or are fully vaccinated, well above the national average of 89%, Lt. Col. Carla A. Raisler, the state guard’s director of public affairs, said in an e-mail.
As for the rest, she said 2.5%, or 164, have refused vaccination, and the same share are awaiting adjudication of requests for an exception to the policy on religious or medical grounds.
When it comes to consequences, Raisler said the Kentucky National Guard is following the guidance from the National Guard Bureau in the Department of Defense.
“NGB has declared drill periods, annual training and exercises as ‘mission-critical.’ Therefore, unvaccinated personnel who are pending adjudication for a medical or religious exemption for the coronavirus vaccination are authorized to continue attending training,” she said. “Service members who are not fully vaccinated and do not have an approved or pending exemption may not attend training.”
Raisler said 6% of guard members are either in the training pipeline or have not been fully vaccinated. She said those in training will not be affected by the mandate and those who have received one dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine near the deadline of July 1 will only miss the July drill period.
“This does not negatively impact them, their military career or their unit,” she said.
Further, she said soldiers whose exceptions are denied will be given the opportunity to receive the vaccination before any action is taken.
“If they refuse the order to be vaccinated they will be subject to certain adverse administrative actions, including flags, bars to continued service, and memoranda of reprimands,” she said. “Soldiers who continue to refuse will be subject to administrative separation. However, we are giving them every opportunity possible to get vaccinated before mandating separation.”
Raisler stressed that the Kentucky Guard has been proactive in educating and encouraging its service members to get vaccinated as a means to ensure they maintain their readiness.
She said, “Kentucky National Guardsmen train all over the country and the globe, so it is essential to the health of our service members and their families that they receive their coronavirus vaccination, especially when training in areas of the world that have higher infection rates.”