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UPDATE: Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccines for IMAs/PIRR

The graphic is a blue background with the HQ RIO shield and a white bar with Notice to Airmen in black.

Headquarters Readiness and Integration Organization is presenting new information the Airmen. The graphic is a blue background with the HQ RIO shield and a white bar with Notice to Airmen in black. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Staff Sgt. Tara R. Abrahams)

IR Team,
 
Thank you for your service and for continually asking the right questions.  As you know, reaching 7,500+ IRs is not always easy, but getting information out about the mandatory Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination is vitally important.  Please continue to stay informed and work with us and your Active Component supervisor to get the facts.  Here are two DAF documents that will be a great place to start getting answers to your questions:
 
DAF SecAF Memo
 
DAF FAQ
 
Gen Scobee sent a message to the field clearly outlining the 2 Dec 21 deadline for Reserve Citizen Airmen to be fully vaccinated and his expectations of Airmen to be in one of four categories by the 2 Dec deadline.  His message states:
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“As a key factor in our readiness and war fighting mission, the health and wellbeing of our Reserve Citizen Airmen is of the utmost importance to me, my staff and our nation’s defense. Many of you have chosen to receive the COVID-19 vaccine voluntarily in an effort to protect yourselves, your families and your wingmen. Thank you.
In accordance with Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall's guidelines for the COVID-19 vaccine, I now intend for all our military Reserve Citizen Airmen to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 2, 2021. Our medical personnel are equipped with the approved Pfizer vaccine to administer our Airmen during the next UTA weekend.
I expect all of our Airmen to fall into one of four categories by the Dec. 2 deadline:
 
(1) fully vaccinated
(2) actively participating/informing/educating in getting fully vaccinated
(3) approved exemption or eligible exemption in progress
(4) decline vaccination, which is incompatible with continued military service.
 
I believe most of you will be in the first two categories, and we will continue to Fly, Fight and Win wherever our nation needs us.”
 
– Lt. Gen. Richard W. Scobee, Chief of the Air Force Reserve and Commander, Air Force Reserve Command
 
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As you’ve probably seen, the date for Active Duty personnel to be fully vaccinated is 2 Nov, but ANG and AFR personnel will follow the 2 Dec deadline.
 
Some key takeaways from the guidance we’ve receive include:
 
- Service members are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after completing the second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine, or two weeks after receiving a single dose of a one-dose vaccine. This includes one or two-dose options authorized under EUA or full FDA approval.
 
- Airmen and Guardians who have proof of vaccination documented in their medical records per this definition will be considered as meeting the vaccination requirement.
 
- Prior to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, service members have access to healthcare providers and chaplains to address questions or concerns with COVID-19 vaccination. Additionally, commanders must consult with their servicing Staff Judge Advocate for additional guidance on vaccination non-compliance.
 
The guidance addresses exemptions for medical or administrative exemptions to include religious accommodations.  Work these requests through your Active Component chain of command and helping agencies.  RIO will receive the final approval of an exemption or accommodation, but you need to start this process with your supervisor as soon as possible.   
 
You’ve voiced questions and concerns to me and our Det/CCs and a lot of those questions can be answered by reviewing the attached FAQ which specifically addresses Total Force situations. 
 
Some of the FAQs include:
 
Question 55) If I refuse the vaccine on a UTA or in other Inactive Duty status, can I be ordered to Annual Tour or other Active Duty and compelled to be vaccinated?
Answer) Yes, you may be ordered to Annual Tour with the appropriate notice. You will be expected to comply with the requirement to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. You may also do so at a civilian provider of your choice. If you elect to receive the vaccine at a civilian provider, an FDA approved or authorized (EUA) vaccine will satisfy the mandate. You will need to provide appropriate paperwork to your Unit Health Monitor to be entered in AHLTA and ASIMS for tracking purposes.
 
Question 56) Is there a difference if I refuse the vaccine on Inactive or Active Duty status?
Answer) No. Members of the reserve components, in either status, are required to comply with this mandate.
 
Question 57) If I refuse the vaccine, will I be paid? Can I be “red-lined” and given an unexcused drill period? Will I be put in “no pay, no points” status?
Answer) You will be paid for any duty completed but could be then excused and sent home pending further action. Any subsequent drill periods could be marked as unexcused if the member does not have prior approval from the commander. Your commander could also place you in a “No Pay No Points” duty status for failing to meet medical readiness requirements.
 
Question 58) If I don’t take the vaccine, can I transfer to the Individual Ready Reserve?
Answer) No. Your transfer will be denied.
 
Question 61) I’m an IMA. Can my Active Duty unit stop my participation if I refuse the vaccine?
Answer) Yes. The COVID-19 vaccine is a mandatory requirement. If a member does not meet medical readiness standards participation could be curtailed.
 
Question 62) If I refuse the vaccine, will I be allowed to participate in order to get a ‘good year’ for retirement?
Answer) It depends. The COVID-19 vaccine is a mandatory requirement. If a member does not meet medical readiness standards, participation could be curtailed.
 
Question 65) Can a member of the reserve component use an Active Duty MTF to receive the COVID-19 vaccination while not in a paid duty status?
Answer) Yes.
 
Question 66) If a member of the reserve component receives a COVID-19 vaccination off-base while not in paid duty status, are they responsible for the cost? Can they seek treatment through TRICARE or the military medical system if they suffer complications? What about through the Veterans Health Administration (VHA)?
Answer) Service members, regardless of status, who require medical attention as a result of COVID-19 vaccination may utilize the military medical system. Determinations on benefits from the VHA or TRICARE will be made by each respectively.
Most civilian vaccination programs are offering the COVID-19 vaccination free of charge. Members of the SELRES may utilize vaccination programs outside of MTFs and DoD vaccination sites, such as civilian county and state programs.
 
The CDC’s vaccines page can help you find the vaccine near you: www.vaccines.gov
 
If you received your vaccination outside a military facility already or are planning to do that prior to the deadline, you can submit the documentation to your MTF or directly to us at RIO and we will update it ASAP.  To submit your documentation to us, follow the steps on page 2 of this quick guide.  When you submit, select the “Labs and Immunizations” option. This guide also has helpful info about accessing MTFs for service.
 
If you have not been vaccinated, on 2 Nov your ARCNet record will show “yellow” and on 2 Dec it will turn “red.”  Like many of our other readiness items (PHA, immunizations, dental, etc), you will not be allowed to perform IDTs or AT/MPA/RPA orders until you meet the requirements for being fully vaccinated and ARCNet turns “green.”  If you remain “red,” what happens next will depend on your Active Component unit in conjunction with anticipated further guidance we receive. 
 
I understand there are still questions you have that are not easy to answer, but know we are working on providing clarity for you.
 
Please continue to voice your questions and concerns and any unique situation you’re facing. 
 
Thanks for ALL you do! 
 
Col Amy Boehle
HQ RIO Commander