5% of active duty Marines still completely unvaccinated as deadline passes

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The Marine Corps’ active duty deadline to be fully vaccinated passed on Sunday, with 5% of active duty Marines still completely unvaccinated ― putting their future Marine careers into question.

An administrative message released by the Marine Corps in October said in no uncertain terms that any Marine who fails to be vaccinated or receive an exemption by the Nov. 28, deadline would be administratively separated from the Marine Corps.

However, in November Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro said that Marines who refused to be vaccinated by the deadline would be given one more chance to change their mind.

In total 95% of active-duty Marines have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, a Marine Corps press release said on Monday.

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“I have great appreciation for all those who made these vaccinations possible, including the civilian and Navy medical personnel who worked tirelessly over the past months to protect our Marines and families,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said in the release.

A total number of 452 have Marines received a temporary administrative exemption, 316 Marines have received a temporary medical exemption and 14 service members have received a permanent medical exemption.

“These numbers will continue to fluctuate due to the nature of the exemptions,” the press release said of the temporary exemptions.

“All medical exemption requests that have yet to be approved or denied are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis,” the release stated. “Each request will be given full consideration with respect to the facts and circumstances submitted in the request. A medical exemption will be reviewed in all cases by a medical professional.”

So far, 2,441 Marines have applied for a religious exemption to the vaccine, the release said.

Of those 1,902 have been processed, according to the Monday press release. None have been approved.

The Marine Corps has no records of any Marines receiving a religious exemption for any vaccines in the past 10 years, Marine Corps Times previously reported.

As the Nov. 28 deadline approached, Berger and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black implored Marines to get vaccinated.

“We have to operate as a team, we have to be ready, we are the nation’s force in readiness,” Berger said in a video released on Nov. 8. “We need you to get vaccinated, we need every single Marine in the unit to be vaccinated.”

The numbers make the Corps the least vaccinated branch in the Department of Defense, with the Navy having 99.7% of its force partially or fully vaccinated, while the Air Force and Space Force had 96% of forces meet its Nov. 2 deadline.

The Army, with a Dec. 25 active duty deadline, had roughly 95% of its force fully vaccinated on Nov. 21, The Washington Post reported.

If the Marine Corps makes good on its promise to remove all who refused the vaccine, more than 8,000 Marines may soon be forced from active duty.

The release said 79 percent of Marine reservists were partially or fully vaccinated.

Marine Corps reservists have until Dec. 28 to be fully vaccinated or receive an exemption.

Though their numbers are significantly lower than the active duty force, Berger previously said he believes that has to do with difficulty keeping records on reservists rather than a sign of increased hesitancy among the force.

“They may have gotten the vaccine last week and we wouldn’t know it,” Berger said in early November at the Aspen Security Forum.

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