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Inhofe tells Pentagon to end military COVID vaccine requirement

Sen. Jim Inhofe
In a photo posted to his Facebook on May 24, 2021, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) poses with members of the Oklahoma National Guard deployed to defend the U.S. Capitol following the pro-Trump insurrection on Jan. 6.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) is calling on the secretary of defense to immediately suspend the requirement that members of the military's uniformed and civilian workforces be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, claiming the policy is harming "readiness and morale."

"At a time when our adversaries continue to increase their quantitative and qualitative advantage against our forces, we should seek to ensure that no policy, even unintentionally, hinders military readiness," Inhofe wrote in a Monday letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

"Most troublesome is the lack of clarity and consistency among the services as they look to implement the administration’s hasty vaccination mandate," Inhofe said. "Combined with the uncertainty and burden the vaccination mandate places on industry, this administration will do more damage to the nation’s security than any external threat."

Inhofe, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, claims in the letter that the vaccination requirement Austin announced in August is "politically motivated."

Inhofe's letter also asks Austin to answer a series of questions by Nov. 1, including ones regarding the projected cost of discharging those who refuse to be vaccinated and "an assessment of the risk posed to those immunized with one of the FDA approved vaccines."

In a statement, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the Department of Defense was in receipt of Inhofe's letter and plan to reply "appropriately."

"That said, Secretary Austin remains convinced that our vaccination regimen — which has helped us achieve a fully vaccinated rate of nearly 85 percent in the active component and more than 66 percent across the active, guard and reserve components — is, in fact, one of the surest ways to bolster our readiness for the challenges we face around the world," Kirby said. "He remains comfortable with the service-appropriate ways in which each military department is pursuing their mandatory vaccination program.

"A vaccinated force is a protected force, better able to deploy and to defend our interests around the world,” Kirby said.

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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