About 43,600 national guard members face possible penalties for not receiving a Covid-19 vaccine before a federal deadline.
Approximately 10% of national guard troops have not provided documentation that they have received a Covid-19 vaccination, violating a direct order to get vaccinated, the New York Times said.
Some have refused a vaccination. About 7,000 have claimed religious or medical exemptions.
Senior military officials said unvaccinated national guard members could still receive pay and benefits.
“We’re going to give every soldier every opportunity to get vaccinated and continue their military career,” Lt Gen Jon A Jensen, director of the army national guard, told the Associated Press. “We’re not giving up on anybody until the separation paperwork is signed and completed.”
Last year, the secretary of defense, Lloyd Austin, ordered all service members, active and reserve, to get vaccinated. Austin also warned that those in the guard who did not comply would not be able to participate in drills, receive pay or put service days towards future retirement, NBC News reported.
Austin said unvaccinated guard members could face expulsion.
Of all the branches of the US military, the guard was given the longest vaccination deadline, due to its large membership and locations across the US.
The guard now has the lowest vaccination rate. While 97% of all active duty personnel in the army, navy, air force and marines are vaccinated, only 88.59% of national guard soldiers had received at least one dose as of 27 June.
About 90% of army reserve forces were partially or completely vaccinated as of Friday, guard officials told media outlets.
In at least seven states, governors have either asked Austin to reconsider his order or refused to enforce the vaccine mandate.
In letters to governors in February, Austin refused to adjust his order, writing that Covid-19 “takes our service members out of the fight, temporarily or permanently, and jeopardizes our ability to meet mission requirements”.
Oklahoma, Texas and Alaska have filed lawsuits over the federal vaccine mandate for national guard members.