May 14, 2022 — Four seniors at the U.S. Air Force Academy may not be allowed to graduate because they have refused to take a COVID-19 vaccine, The Associated Press reported.
The Department of Defense mandated last year that all military service members, including military academy students, be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they’re granted an exemption. Service members also are required to take a host of other vaccines.
Air Force Academy spokesperson Lt. Col. Brian Maguire said the situation may change because “there are still two weeks until graduation, so their status could change as the cadets weigh their options,” The Associated Press said.
Graduation is scheduled for May 25 at the Air Force Academy campus in Colorado Springs, Colo. Maguire also said two juniors, one sophomore, and six freshmen have refused to take the vaccine.
One possible consequence for the Air Force cadets is having to repay the government for tuition costs. The U.S. military academies sometimes require students to repay those costs, which can be as much as $200,000, if they leave during their junior or senior years, The Associated Press said.
The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., say none of their seniors will miss graduation because of vaccine refusal, The Associated Press said.
Mike Rose, a lawyer representing three of the senior cadets, said they might graduate late and be commissioned as officers if they went ahead and received a dose of vaccine, but “they’ve got a limited amount of time to make that decision, and they’re running out of time,” The Colorado Springs Gazette said.
Gordon Klingenschmitt, an Air Force Academy graduate who leads an evangelical ministry, said the four seniors objected to the vaccine on religious grounds, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. “That’s why they won’t take the vaccine,” he said. “It’s not because they hate all vaccines.