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Appeals court upholds pause on Air Force vaccine mandate

The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit from 18 active duty and reserve members who were denied religious vaccine exemptions.

Published: November 30, 2022 1:59pm

Updated: November 30, 2022 4:11pm

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has sided with unvaccinated Air Force service members by upholding an injunction pausing the military's COVID-19 vaccine mandate. 

The Ohio-based court wrote Tuesday that "the Air Force agreed that it has granted zero religious exemptions to anyone who does not plan to leave the service within a year."

The court also said the Air Force has "provided no statistics on the total number of medical or administrative exemptions that personnel have requested or that it has granted."

The ruling comes in response to a class action lawsuit from 18 active-duty and reserve members who were denied religious exemptions to the COVID vaccine mandate.

The court said the Air Force is "mistaken" in its reasoning against providing vaccine exemptions and offered a "bare-bones argument" in support of its claim that the district court went too far by ruling in favor of the unvaccinated members.

As of Nov. 1, nearly 98% of Air Force members were vaccinated, according to official data.

The appeals court observed that about 10,000 Air Force members had requested religious exemptions, and approximately 135 had been approved – only for those who already had plans to leave the service.

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