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USAFA Cadet refusing COVID vaccine in order to graduate resigns


U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (KRDO) -- One of the four senior U.S. Air Force Cadets who faced the possibility of not graduating unless they got the COVID-19 vaccine has voluntarily resigned.

According to the USAFA, two cadets are still refusing to get vaccinated. The other cadet decided to get vaccinated.

The USAFA said the fourth cadet submitted paperwork to resign.

Below is a statement provided to 13 Investigates regarding the situation:

“Two senior cadets are refusing to obey the Secretary of Defense’s lawful order from August 2021 to receive vaccination against COVID-19. This vaccine requirement is in addition to the eight other vaccines required of all individuals for accession into the military.  This refusal, if it continues, may impact their ability to graduate and commission. Cadets with health and religious concerns were given the opportunity to follow Air Force policy in requesting accommodation based on their faith traditions or medical condition. Part of that religious accommodation process included an interview with a chaplain who determined if the cadet had a sincerely held religious belief. However, even if an individual holds a sincerely held religious belief, the decision authority, in this instance the Superintendent, must weigh that belief against the compelling government interest of ensuring a safe and ready force – crucial to meet global deployment responsibilities. 

We provided resources and information to the cadets in order to make a decision and graduate with the Class of 2022. The majority of our religious accommodation requests centered on the use of stem cells in the development and/or production of the currently available vaccines. There are vaccines available that did not use stem cells in the development, testing or production, which was presented as an option. The cadets refused to commit to this vaccine. Another USAFA staff member used their own resources to obtain the Novavax vaccine and is now in compliance with DoD policy. We have taken every step and continued to work to protect the religious freedom of our cadets and staff. These cadets are not out of time.  If they start a vaccine regimen and commit to finishing it according to the FDA/CDC recommendations, they can graduate and commission with the rest of the class on May 25. They must be fully vaccinated by Aug. 1. We want to see these cadets graduate and commission, but they must meet the military requirements necessary for a ready force.

Lt Col Brian Maguire, Director, Public Affairs, U.S. Air Force Academy
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Shelby Filangi

Shelby is a digital content producer for You can learn more about Shelby here.



  1. That’s great that they offered cadets vaccines that didn’t use embryonic stem cells. I sure wish those vaccines were made available to the rest of the nation’s populace. I’m looking to go back to school soon and had been planning for years to get a bachelors of science in nursing, but I don’t want to go through all the schooling to only be denied because I won’t compromise on my beliefs. God has never called on me to sin to do good.

    1. Based on the PA statement, it appears to me that other vaccines are indeed available – IF one is willing to do the research and quite possibly pay to receive those vaccines.
      I’ve no sympathy for any of these cadets, especially since they were given ample opportunities and vaccine options in order to comply with the DoD directive, something not available to the vast majority of servicemembers.

      1. Novavax is not free of embryonic stem cell use. I don’t know why that would be stated in the AF statement as it is indisputably not the case.

    2. Hopefully one of the overseas vaccines will be an option, but there’s nothing in the U.S. right now that is. We’ve been waiting for the Japanese rubella vaccine that has been in use for maybe 40 years to become available here. Another example of how our free market system is not functioning properly. In a laissez-faire economy, we’d have more choices.

      1. Embryonic stem cells were used in the research during early development of the vaccines. But the vaccines used by the public are derived from stem cells obtained by other means developed in more recent years. So people who have problems with the source of the vaccines should actually find there are no problems with the current vaccines. It’s just still being used as an excuse by staunch anti-vaxxers.

        1. I’m not sure what the distinction is that you are drawing here. All current U.S. COVID vaccines either are manufactured using embryonic stem cell lines or used those lines directly in their research (i.e. to test efficacy in a human cell).

        2. You don’t have to be anti-abortion to understand the objections. A thought experiment, let’s say there were some medications that were manufactured using a process that — well, pick something that matters to you — causes great suffering to animals? Seriously pollutes a waterway? Exploits a poorer nation or group? You would want there to be a brand of that medication not developed that way that you could use in good conscience. Now for each COVID vaccine, sub in your moral cause. Would you use a COVID vaccine if it had been tested on dogs in a way that caused extreme and unnecessary suffering? Would you use a COVID vaccine that was manufactured in a plant that spewed biopollution into an estuary? Now what if it were possible to make a vaccine without causing any of these problems, wouldn’t you expect the federal government’s billions of dollars to go to making at least one of the vaccines that one? Wouldn’t you think it was weird if that didn’t happen, and instead the government and others just started disparaging you as an “anti-vaxxer”? We all benefit from ethically clean vaccines, there shouldn’t be two sides here.

  2. Will the cadet who is resigning be responsible for paying for his education? I’m sure he could transfer to another university and most of his courses would apply toward a non-military degree. I think it is noteworthy that the Air Force provided the non-stem cell option for cadets, but this one still refused.

    1. Not sure as to whether the cadet will have to reimburse the government for his/her education, but it is quite possible that he/she will be ordered to active duty as an enlisted Airman (taken from the USAFA admissions website).

      1. He resigned. He is out. They can no longer order him to do anything. It will be seen as an honorable discharge. This happens a lot at the academy for various reasons.

        1. “First-cl@ss cadets who complete the entire academic program and then resign or refuse to accept a commission may be ordered to active duty for four years as enlisted Airmen.” Straight from the USAFA Admissions website. And, being the military, I’m sure that there is paperwork out there that 2nd & 1st Cl@ss Cadets must sign affirming their knowledge of this fact.

          1. So then a dishonerable discharge from his enlistment because he refuses the vaccine? Or a court martial? Brig?

          2. Considering that to be an airman he will have to get the vaccine also they will do like they have previously to personnel who do not get the vaccine. They were giving dishonorable discharges to military personnel who didn’t get the shot and then there was an outcry and they had a hearing and determined that that was not appropriate and changed it to a discharge or a other than dishonorable discharge. I have a friend who was in the Army and refused. He got a general discharge from Ft Carson.

    2. He will receive his degree and then will be charged by the academy for that education.

  3. There are no vaccines for COVID currently approved in the U.S. that don’t have a stem cell connection, including the Novavax vaccine, so this statement is false and that is easily confirmed with a quick Google search.

    There is at least one vaccine internationally that can be used, maybe these cadets could travel to receive one overseas.

    It is a bizarre turn that government officials now feel qualified to apply religious “piety” tests to individuals, with a federal employee intereviewing someone to judge whether he is a true believer.

      1. Rolled eyes? Is there some point where I haven’t been respectful of your point of view?

        I’ve posted a full comment with some discussion and links, its in moderation so don’t know if it will be published.

        COGFL is an advocacy site, but it works very hard to keep clean on its postings to stay credible, if you look carefully I don’t think you’ll find any errors.

        The short is that there is a research paper that says one small part of the process was using the ESC to make sure what they used instead for everything else would work just as well. They were in a Catch 22 position because the FDA would want to know that their use of the other cells was just as good, and you can’t prove that without using both kinds of cells, so it’s not really the company’s “fault”, but it is a reality. You can correct me if you find that’s not the case or that they used information already on record, but my understanding is that they did the work, so used the cells in real time. The pharma company wants to say that doesn’t “count”. It’s reasonable for the cadet to feel it “counts”. The question is whether he is lying about having a religious objection because of ESC and he is just using it as an excuse. If he could reasonably believes this “counts”, and obviously he can, then there’s no evidence it’s not a true religious objection. So this is a bunch of CYA from the AF. Just kick him out if you want to, don’t lie to do it.

  4. So the right to be in charge of one’s own body or their religious choice is moot, as they are government property under UCMJ; no disagreement with this as every person is advised of this before they enlist or accept a commission.
    This is what separates military personnel from general populace.
    And considering the current direction of Roe v. Wade, the citizens are losing that right too.
    Interesting how some are staunch supporters of their choice to not vaccinate but are not as fervent in supporting a woman’s right to their ability to choose what they do with their own body, even in cases involving incest and r(a)pe.

    1. The question here is not whether the military has some control over his body that they would not have if he were a civilian, you are right that this is the case and that is a parallel. But the question is whether they can force him to participate in an act against another. If in battle a soldier is ordered to fight in an action the soldier thinks is stupid, he still has to follow the order, even if he knows he will be killed. But if he is ordered to fight an action that he thinks is immoral, like firing on children, he has the right to refuse the order.

  5. The E u r o p e a n I n s t i t u t e of B i o e t h i c s (an anti-abo rtion and anti-e utha nasia group) has a page of the COVID vac cines that are free of any con nection with ESC use, for those here that are looking for a way to va ccinate when possible. None of those are avail able in the U.S. now. Folks who are both pro-cho ice and anti-abortion who want to see a higher COVID vac cination rate should be on the same side in getting some of these va ccines ava ilable here ASAP.

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