Alaska joins Texas to sue over National Guard vaccine rule

A white man in a zipper fleexe stands next to an american flag
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks at a news conference at his downtown office in Anchorage on Wednesday, September 22, 2021. (Nat Herz/Alaska Public Media)

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has joined Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in seeking to block the U.S. Department of Defense from mandating COVID-19 vaccines for National Guard members who are under state command.

The Pentagon has required COVID-19 vaccination for all service members, including the National Guard and Reserve. Attorneys for the two governors, in an amended lawsuit dated Tuesday, say that when National Guard members are serving the state, the federal government has no command authority. The lawsuit said the mandate is an unconstitutional overstepping of bounds.

The case dealing with Alaska and Texas guard members is an amended version of the challenge filed by Texas earlier this month.

More than 220 members of the Texas Air National Guard and about 40% of Texas Army National Guard members are refusing to be vaccinated for “either religious accommodation needs or otherwise,” according to the lawsuit. About 8% of Alaska Air and Army National Guard members have not received a first dose of any COVID-19 vaccine and of these members, “more than 90% have requested a medical or religious exemption, yet no such exemptions have been granted.”

“A small number of additional Alaska National Guard members are refusing any COVID-19 vaccine,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit names as defendants President Joe Biden, the Department of Defense and military officials.

The White House referred a reporter seeking comment on the lawsuit to the Department of Defense, which did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press.

A federal judge last month ruled against Oklahoma in its lawsuit challenging the vaccine mandates for the state’s guard members.

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