Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The 30-minute jab is intended to protect against more serious adult lung diseases
The Air Force has discharged 27 active duty airmen from their careers after they refused to take a lung-protecting shot.
They were reprimanded for “disobeying orders”, and called “prudent adults” by the service.
The nasal spray COVID-19 or bronchodilator spray is used to protect against serious adult lung diseases.
But critics say the Air Force is singling out the 27 soldiers, and that other officers are also being reprimanded.
In November, the service announced it would be eliminating the COVID-19 pilot programme in 2019.
It originally began in 2013, but by the end of that year Air Force chief of staff Gen David Goldfein had said it was clearly having problems.
COVID-19 works by preventing allergic reactions to tobacco smoke, but in this case it could also be applied to other medicines that can cause a lung inflammation called angioedema, potentially increasing death rates.
The original memorandum of instruction for Air Force members to use COVID-19 states that “no collateral health effects or symptom loading with furosemide in this experiment” were to be expected.
But an investigation carried out by the Inspector General and released to Air Force Times last week found: “A non-defense-authority investigator interviewed dozens of airmen who claimed to have adverse health effects on their lungs following exposure to COVID-19.
“Some of these airmen experienced the effects of health effects prior to using the trial aerosol, which (they) had been provided in unapproved concentrations.”
The officers who were reprimanded in December included 22 from the military police, one from the Air Force Public Affairs Office and a legal adviser who helped lead the COVID-19 trial.
Also among those removed were officers with five different conflicts of interest under investigation for “abusing their authority, withholding information from superiors, or profiting from product use in force,” Air Force Times reports.
Those developments led the Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to criticise their discipline as “appropriate”.
Mr Wilson told Air Force Times the 31 officers who are still working within the service but have been suspended from their duties had also offered “unjustified resistance” to the military.
She said: “I expect commanders to fight for their airmen who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and I will take any and all appropriate and action to ensure they receive all the appropriate treatment, including accountability for their actions.”
A spokesman for the Air Force Academy said: “This issue arose when we detected and began to investigate cases where access to nasal spray variations was facilitating inappropriate use in an effort to profit from the limited success of this trial.
“We concluded that actions were inappropriate in those cases. We implemented corrective measures and a plan to remedy the problem. We endeavoured to engage with all AFB airmen involved in these operations to ensure they understood the implications of their actions and have a clear understanding of the consequences of not complying with our orders.”
He added that the service maintains a video of the testing, giving a sample of COVID-19 foam. The video showed a group of people inhaling the aerosol, which contains an inhalant called furosemide.
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