Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, asked Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday to ”indefinitely postpone” enforcing the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for members of the state’s Army National Guard, according to The Hill.
In a letter that was also signed by Virginia GOP congressmen Bob Good, Rob Wittman, Ben Cline and Morgan Griffith, Youngkin asserts that the vaccine mandate will push guard members out at a time when they are most needed.
”This directive will unnecessarily impact troop readiness, at a time when the Virginia National Guard has substantial deployments and as our nation enters hurricane season,” the letter reads. ”These guardsmen deserve the opportunity to continue to serve, and we need them.”
The letter also points to recently lifted mask and vaccine mandates in other areas, natural immunity to the coronavirus and treatments as reasons to do away with the mandate, The Hill reports.
”We know you share our great appreciation and respect for the brave men and women of our National Guard,” Youngkin concludes. ”Their service and sacrifice reflect their commitment to our country and the principles embodied in our nation.
”A select number of them have made a decision not to get vaccinated and whether that decision is based on sincerely held religious beliefs, their own medical choices, or another matter of conscience, our nation should respect and accommodate it.”
Austin has said that as defense secretary, he has the authority to set medical requirements, including vaccination mandates.
The Virginia Republicans’ letter is the latest attempt from the GOP to push Austin toward axing the mandate, according to The Hill. Army Reserve and Army National Guard members have until Thursday to get vaccinated or request an exemption. They could be disciplined or removed from the service if they opt to do neither.
According to The Associated Press, up to 40,000 Army National Guard members across the country — or about 13% of the force — have not yet gotten the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Military Times reports that 3,400 troops have been involuntarily separated from service for refusing to take the vaccine.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, both Republicans, have also been vocal in objecting to the vaccine mandate for the National Guard, according to The Hill.