Adjutant Gen. Thomas Mancino is removing the vaccine mandate for the Oklahoma National Guard, according to a Thursday memo obtained by The Oklahoman.
"No negative administrative or legal action will be taken" against guard members who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine, the memo reads.
Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt appointed Mancino, a 35-year veteran of the National Guard, to replace former Adjutant Gen. Michael Thompson on Wednesday.
Stitt sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Nov. 2 requesting the suspension of COVID-19 vaccine mandates for members of the Oklahoma National Guard. The move caused friction between the governor and Thompson, the Tulsa World reported.
"This mandate violates the personal freedoms of many Oklahomans, as it asks them to potentially sacrifice their personal beliefs in order to not lose their jobs," Stitt wrote.
Stitt's office has denied Thompson was replaced due to his opinion on vaccine mandates and said the change in command was in the works since October, The Oklahoman reported.
"The clarified policy on COVID vaccinations for Oklahoma Army and Air National Guardsmen reflects the governor's ability to assert his command authority over the men and women of the Oklahoma National Guard while they are within the state's borders," Lt. Col. Geoff Legler told the outlet.
Thompson wrote in an Oct. 27 memo, now superseded, that vaccines were required for active-duty guardsmen and detailed the repercussions, The Oklahoman said.
"Uniformed members and Title 5 federal civilian employees who elect not to receive the vaccine will be counseled regarding the consequences of not being vaccinated," Thompson wrote. "These consequences will depend on the individual's status."
Declining to take the vaccine could result in an inability to mobilize or receive training at federal military installations.
Stitt's cabinet has been defiant against the recent Biden vaccine mandate for businesses of over 100 employees, according to KFOR.
"Biden's vaccine mandates are a clear abuse of power," Attorney General John O'Connor said. "He does not have the authority to make healthcare decisions for Oklahomans."
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