COCHISE COUNTY — While 15 December was the deadline for soldiers at Fort Huachuca and the rest of the Army to get vaccinated against COVID-19, there were no such mandates in Cochise County’s municipalities and law enforcement agencies.

But even before the Army’s vaccine deadline arrived for service members, a majority of both active military and civilian employees on the installation had gotten their jabs in the arm, said an Army spokeswoman at Fort Huachuca.

Of course, there are still some holdouts on post, but it’s unclear whether these are soldiers and civilians who have requested medical or administrative exemptions to the mandate. Administrative exemptions also include religious accommodations, said spokeswoman Tanja Linton.

“Required vaccinations are nothing new to the U.S. military,” Linton said in an email to the Herald/Review. “Orders to receive the mandatory vaccine are lawful.”

Earlier this year, the Pentagon required the vaccine for all members of the military, including active duty, National Guard and the Reserves. Each of the services set its own deadlines and procedures for the mandate, the earliest deadline — Nov. 2 — set by the Air Force. For civilian employees of the DoD, the deadline was Nov. 22.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said the vaccine is critical to maintaining the health of the force and its ability to respond to a national security crisis.

Soldiers have the ability to request an exemption from receiving the vaccine, if they have a valid medical, religious or administrative reason. Soldiers who are pending exemption requests will not be subject to adverse actions until the exemption is fully processed, Linton said. Soldiers requesting an administrative exemption must speak to their commander. Those who believe they require a medical exemption must consult with their primary care manager, Linton said.

DoD civilians also may request an exemption on the basis of a medical condition or circumstances or sincerely held religious belief, practice or observance, she said.

But soldiers who flat-out refuse to get the vaccine could face repercussions, including dismissal from the Army.

“Soldiers who refuse the vaccine order will first be counseled by their chain of command and medical providers and face a mandatory general officer reprimand and potential relief of duties,” Linton said. “Continued refusal to follow this lawful order could include additional adverse measures such as non-judicial and judicial punishment and separation from service.

“For soldiers who refuse the vaccine and do not have a pending or approved exemption request, commanders will request a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand be initiated,” Linton added.

Information provided by the DoD shows that as of Dec. 8, 245,128 service members in the Army had been partially vaccinated, while 561,359 had been fully vaccinated. As for all civilian employees in the DoD, 50,710 had been partially vaccinated and 341,836 had been fully vaccinated. The information provided for civilians was last updated on Nov. 24, the DoD website shows.

The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that the Air Force has discharged 27 people for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, possibly making that branch of the military the first to remove service members for disobeying the vaccine mandate.

The Air Force gave its forces until Nov. 2 to get the vaccine, and thousands either refused or sought an exemption. An Air Force spokeswoman said that these are the first airmen to be “administratively discharged for reasons involving the vaccine.”

Legislation working its way through Congress limits the military to giving troops in vaccine refusal cases an honorable discharge or general discharge under honorable conditions.

Several published reports show that around the country employees of mega-companies such as 3M, General Electric and Lockheed Martin have staged protests and have walked off the job after vaccine mandates were instituted at their respective workplaces.

The state of Arizona has no such mandate in place. The city of Phoenix recently instituted a mandate for its 14,000 employees that officials had to put on hold after a federal judge temporarily blocked President Joe Biden’s administration from enforcing a mandate for those employed by federal contractors.

With news of so many protests and walkouts by employees around the nation who were given vaccine mandates by their companies, Cochise County government and a few of its larger municipalities have not imposed such requirements on their workforces.

Struggling with staff shortages of his own in the police department and the regional communications center known as SEACOM, Sierra Vista City Manager Charles Potucek said he was not about to impose a mandate that could prompt a walkout by city employees.

“While we encourage vaccinations for our staff, we feel that employees are in the best position to make their own medical decisions,” Potucek said in an email. “We also see that mandates can produce unintended consequences such as employee turnover, which seems counterproductive in an already challenging recruitment environment. We continue to monitor federal and corporate mandates for their possible impact on our operation and will respond accordingly.”

Cochise County government spokeswoman Camila Rochin echoed that: “There is no state or federal mandate that requires the County to mandate vaccines or testing from employees. Should any legislation change, the county would adjust as needed.”

Law enforcement officials in Tombstone said there are no vaccination mandates in that city, and the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, while also encouraging employees to get inoculated, also does not have such a requirement in place. Sheriff’s spokeswoman Carol Capas said Sheriff Mark Dannels believes that getting the vaccine should be a personal choice.

The same goes for Douglas.

“The city as a whole is not mandating vaccines,” said Douglas Police spokeswoman Officer Jamilette Barrios. “Human Resources continues to share information from the Arizona Department of Health and the CDC so that employees can make informed decisions on their own. A recent estimate indicates 80% of the workforce has been vaccinated which is representative of the individual departments/divisions in the city service.”

In Bisbee, meanwhile, where an “overwhelming majority” of the city’s workforce has already gotten its shot in the arm, there are no plans to institute a vaccine mandate either.

“The reason why is because an overwhelming majority of our employees are vaxxed,” said city manager Steve Pauken. “We are not and will not turn this into a political issue.”