Nearly 40 percent of Marines who were offered the COVID-19 vaccine by the Defense Department have turned it down.
The numbers were first reported by CNN on Saturday.
As of April 8, roughly 75,500 Marines, both active duty and reserves, have received at least a partial dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from the Marine Corps, according to Capt. Andrew Wood, a spokesman for Headquarters Marine Corps. The Corps has roughly 102,000 Marines who still have not had an opportunity to take the vaccine through the military.
Roughly 48,000 Marines have declined to take the vaccine from the Department of Defense, Wood said.
“There are several reasons someone may have declined the vaccine,” Wood said in a Monday email. “For example, an individual may have deferred until later to allow others to get the vaccine, they may have gotten the vaccine on their own and not through military channels, they could be unavailable for a second dose in the prescribed time period for the vaccines that require two doses, they could expect the vaccine to become mandatory and are waiting until then, or they may be allergic to one of the compounds in the vaccine,” he added.
The COVID-19 vaccine will remain voluntary for Marines until it receives its full approval by the FDA.
The vaccination acceptance rate among Marines at 61.1 percent isn’t far off from total military estimates of 66 percent, CNN reported. The Marine Corps was the first service branch to disclose its servicewide numbers.
The largest concentration of Marines who declined the vaccine was in II Marine Expeditionary Force, primarily stationed in North Carolina at Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point.
Roughly 17,500 Marines with II MEF have declined the vaccine, compared to the 11,800 who are fully or partially vaccinated.
The nearly 60 percent declination rate is by far the highest in the Marine Corps.
Around 37 percent of Marines in the West Coast based I MEF and 31 percent of Marines in the Hawaii and Okinawa, Japan, based III MEF have turned down the vaccine from the military, according to Marine Corps data.
The vaccine is currently voluntary because it has only has received an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.
Once it is fully authorized it will likely become mandatory for Marines, like several other vaccines administered to them during their career.
If a Marine declines the COVID-19 vaccine, it goes to the next Marine on the priority list, Wood said.
Marines who decline the vaccine but later change their mind will be offered it at the next possible opportunity, Wood added.
A total of 21,060 Marines have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Department of Defense.
Both Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black posted photos of them receiving the first dose of the vaccine and urged everyone in the Corps to take it.
“Today @CMC_MarineCorps and I received the #COVID19 vaccine. While wearing masks and social distancing remain necessary measures, I encourage all eligible Marines and family members to protect themselves and their communities by receiving the vaccine when available,” Black said in a December 2020 tweet.
“We fully understand that widespread acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccine provides us with the best means to defeat this pandemic,” Wood said.
“The key to addressing this pandemic is building vaccine confidence.”