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People outside Holloman Air Force Base on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, protest military vaccine mandates.
People outside Holloman Air Force Base on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, protest military vaccine mandates. (Alamogordo Daily News/TNS)

HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (Tribune News Service) — Marchers gathered early Monday at the Holloman Air Force Base Visitors Center to protest the U.S. Department of Defense mandatory COVID-19 vaccination order for all U.S. military service members.

The protest was organized by New Mexico Freedoms Alliance, with a second scheduled for later in the day.

On Aug. 24, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin, III issued a memo stating that all military departments must begin to fully vaccinate all military members.

“To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force,” Lloyd said in the memo. “After careful consultation with medical experts and military leadership, and with the support of the President, I have determined that mandatory vaccination against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is necessary to protect the Force and defend the American people.”

The COVID-19 vaccination service implementation plan requires all U.S. Air Force active duty personnel to be fully vaccinated, unless seeking an exemption by Nov. 2 and all U.S. Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve personnel to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 2, unless seeking an exemption.

“The COVID-19 vaccine has been proven to be safe and effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths and will now be part of the list of vaccinations the military are already required to receive as part of their individual medical readiness requirements,” Holloman Air Force Base spokeswoman Denise Ottaviano said via email Sept. 10.

Ottaviano said Holloman was aware of objection to the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination plan.

“We are aware... there is a planned protest near Holloman Air Force Base,” Ottaviano said. “Our Security Forces personnel identified a safe protest location in the event of a protest and military members interested in participating were advised to contact their squadron leadership to ensure compliance with attendance and participation guidelines.”

According to the Military Health System, those assigned to U.S. Northern Command, which covers all of North America, service members are required to get vaccinated for chickenpox, Hepatitis A, flu (seasonal), MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), polio and TDaP (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis).

On Aug. 23, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, approved the Pfizer-BioNTeck vaccine for people aged 16 years and older.

“While this and other vaccines have met the FDA’s rigorous, scientific standards for emergency use authorization, as the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product,” Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. said in an FDA press release.

nmaxwell@alamogordonews.com

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