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Defense secretary responds to Oklahoma governor's vaccine mandate concern

Stitt and Austin
Posted at 4:01 PM, Nov 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-29 17:57:02-05

OKLAHOMA CITY — U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin responded to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt's concerns about vaccine requirements for National Guardsmen in a letter on Monday.

Stitt has pushed back against the Department of Defense's COVID-19 vaccine mandate, partnering with new adjutant general Brig. Gen. Thomas H. Mancino to assure Oklahoma soldiers they wouldn't have to comply with the requirements.

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"In making our decision to require vaccination for Service members, we considered the thousands of hospitalizations and the hundreds of deaths, among Service members, civilians, and their families. COVID-19 takes our Service members out of the fight, temporarily or permanently, and jeopardizes our ability to meet mission requirements," Austin wrote to Stitt.

"The concerns raised in your letter do not negate the need for this important military readiness requirement."

Austin says service members who don't follow the federal mandate could lead to a prohibition on the member's participation in drills and training, jeopardizing their status in the National Guard.

The Army's deadline for active-duty military members to get vaccinated is Dec. 15 while National Guard soldiers are required to be vaccinated by June 30, 2022.

Stitt's office responded to the letter saying, “Governor Stitt appreciates that Secretary Austin responded to his letter and maintains his position that the governor is the commander-in-chief for all members of the Oklahoma National Guard while they are on Title 32 status.”

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