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A U.S. Air Force service member preparing a dose of a coronavirus vaccine in Boston in February. Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

The Air Force said Wednesday that nearly 97% of its approximately 326,000 active duty service members have complied with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin's mandate and have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine before the branch's Nov. 2 deadline.

Why it matters: Around 8,500 active members missed the deadline. Many of them have filed for medical exemptions and religious accommodations, which are being reviewed by the department.

  • The department said its medical personnel vaccinated nearly 100,000 service members in just over two months

What they're saying: “Our Airmen need to be prepared to operate anytime, anywhere in the world,” Air Force chief of staff Gen. CQ Brown said in a statement.

  • “Getting vaccinated ensures we are a ready force to meet our commitments to the nation while protecting the health of our team and families," he added.

What's next: Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve members are required to receive at least one dose by Dec. 2.

Go deeper: Biden announces new strategy to reduce military and veteran suicides

Go deeper

Nov 24, 2021 - World

New Zealand to reopen to vaccinated foreign travelers from April

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during a news conference at Parliament in Wellington, New Zealand, on Monday. Photo: Mark Mitchell - Pool/Getty Images

New Zealand will reopen to most international travelers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 next year, in a gradual lifting of border restrictions that have been in place since March 2020.

Why it matters: NZ imposed some of the world's toughest pandemic measures and largely contained the virus to managed hotel quarantine facilities for returning New Zealand residents. Its economy had rebounded before Delta arrived in August and domestic restrictions returned.

NY declares state of emergency amid concerns over Omicron COVID variant

Governor Kathy Hochul makes an announcement about a new plan transforming Penn Station on Nov. 3, 2021. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday declared a state of emergency amid rising COVID-19 cases and the newly-identified Omicron variant of the virus.

Driving the news: The declaration enables the state to acquire supplies to fight a potential surge in cases, increase hospital capacity and combat potential staff shortages, NBC's local affiliate reports.

Updated 14 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 Omicron variant cases identified in Europe, U.K.

People wearing masks walk in London on Nov. 25. Photo: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Health officials in the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany announced on Saturday that they've detected the first known cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The discoveries come as the world scrambles to respond to concerns over the new variant, discovered in South Africa earlier this week.