Vaccination deadline for Minnesota National Guard looms on Thursday

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As many as 600 members of the Minnesota Army and Air National Guard still haven’t been vaccinated just three days before a deadline to do so or be forced out of the military.

Nationally, up to 40,000 members of the National Guard are unvaccinated and in danger of the same fate.

“People are our greatest strength and the most valuable resource required to perform our mission,” Lt. Col. Kristen Auge, Minnesota National Guard’s State Public Affairs Officer, said in a statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

“Being vaccinated protects the health and welfare of our women and men to defend our Nation’s freedom. More than 95% of the Minnesota National Guard force is vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. Of the less than 5% not vaccinated, nearly 2% of the service members requested religious or medical accommodation. These requests are awaiting disposition from the Departments of the Army and Air Force. Approximately 3% of service members have refused the vaccination. The Minnesota National Guard continues to work with service members who have reservations about the vaccination with dignity and respect.”

Lt. Col. Kristen Auge, Minnesota National Guard

No one from the Minnesota National Guard was made available for an interview.

One former member of the 133rd Airlift Wing of the Minnesota Air National Guard talked to 5 Eyewitness News by phone under the condition of remaining anonymous. The airman told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS of an interest in re-enlisting at the end of this year but declined to be vaccinated and had a request for a religious exemption rejected. “Our mission readiness is definitely impacted by this,” the former Guard member said.

Last year the Defense Department ordered all branches of the military to get vaccinated, including the National Guard. According to a recent Associated Press report, about 40,000 National Guard members remain unvaccinated, or about 13%.