Gov. Kay Ivey has sent a letter to Joe Biden urging him to halt the upcoming COVID-19 vaccination deadline for the U.S. Army.
“As the June 30, 2022, Covid-19 vaccination deadline for U.S. Army personnel quickly approaches, I respectfully, but urgently, ask your consideration to halt this arbitrary implementation date,” Ivey wrote. “While I understand this policy was developed to promote force readiness, it has instead had —and will continue to have —a counterproductive effect. The men and women impacted by this policy —the National Guard members who serve their state and country in a volunteer, part-time capacity—deserve clarity on this policy before it continues forward.”
Ivey says in the letter that she ultimately believes the mandate should be rescinded, but emphasizes more time is needed at the very least.
“More than 300 religious exemption requests have been submitted by members of the Alabama Army and Air National Guard, and to date, none have received a final determination,” Ivey said. “As it stands, these men and women are on track to face consequences with no accountability from the policymakers.”
According to Ivey, the more-than 12,000 members of the Alabama National Guard is about 80 percent vaccinated, but “it stands to lose at least 300 soldiers and up to 1,000 soldiers should this policy proceed.”
“Unfortunately, this will immediately impact our Guard’s force readiness as some of these individuals have unique expertise in specific, mission-critical specialization,” Ivey said. “More broadly, the sudden departure of many young soldiers will effectively create a missing cohort who will not be present to train, and develop their own unique expertise, in the years to come.”
Although Ivey encouraged Alabamians earlier in the pandemic to voluntarily get vaccinated, Ivey and the Alabama Legislature have stringently opposed vaccine mandates throughout the pandemic.
In a special session in October 2021, Alabama passed a law requiring businesses to grant medical and religious exemptions to vaccine mandates without any evidence necessary to support the exemption.