Listen to Austin 360 Radio

About 140 Arizona National Guard members refuse COVID-19 vaccine as threat of discharge looms

Arizona National Guard Alpha Company deplane at Goldwater Air National Guard Base in Phoenix on Feb. 18, 2022.
Ryan Randazzo
Arizona Republic

Arizona has approximately 140 members of the Army and Air National Guard who could face discharge because of their refusal to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, according to the military.

But, so far, none have been separated from duty.

The U.S. Army has set a June 30 deadline for reservists and the National Guard members to get vaccinated. Active duty members had to do so by Dec. 15.

"Like any other vaccination the military is required to have, the COVID-19 vaccine is vital to the Arizona National Guard's ability to answer the call and respond to needs in the state and around the world," said Arizona National Guard Communications Director Maj. Kyle Key. 

Arizona has more about 4,200 members in the Army National Guard and about 2,400 in the Air National Guard.

More vaccine coverage:Why Arizona schoolkids won't be required to get COVID-19 vaccines

National Guard members train part time, usually about three or four days a month and an additional two to four weeks annually, compared with active duty military who serve full time.

Of the Army National Guard members, 83% are vaccinated, about 14.5% are not vaccinated, and 1.3% are partially vaccinated. Key said 119 members have refused the vaccine.

In addition, there are 310 members seeking religious exemptions and four members have received medical exemptions while four more have pending requests, he said.

Of the Air National Guard members, who faced a Dec. 2 vaccination deadline, 94.4% are vaccinated, 2.4% are not vaccinated, 0.3% are partially vaccinated. Key said 24 have refused a vaccine but continue to serve, he said.

Air National Guard is evaluating 63 religious exemption requests and has approved five medical exemptions, he said.

"While our Citizen-Airmen and Soldiers must be healthy and ready to serve, they are entitled to a thorough and thoughtful review before decisions are made on their exemption requests," Key said.

Each branch of the military is handling vaccinations and exemption requests independently.

"Those who have applied for religious accommodations or medical exemptions may continue to serve and train while their requests are being adjudicated," Key said. "These things take time and each request will be reviewed individually as we ensure their rights for a fair and exhaustive exemption process. This lengthy review process is not impacted by the Army's June 30th deadline for the National Guard or U.S. Army Reserve."

Reach reporter Ryan Randazzo at ryan.randazzo@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4331. Follow him on Twitter @UtilityReporter.