NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland ― The top enlisted leaders in both the Navy and Marine Corps said mandatory coronavirus vaccinations are necessary for the force going forward.

“I think it has to be,” mandatory, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith said during a panel of senior enlisted leaders at the 2021 Sea-Air-Space conference in National Harbor, Maryland, on Tuesday.

Smith said the ability for vaccinated sailors to pass the potentially deadly coronavirus to unvaccinated shipmates makes it impossible to leave the choice to get vaccinated up to the individual.

“You can go out into town, you can get contact with it, you can bring it back … so you have to get everyone,” Smith said.

When Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black was asked if mandatory vaccination was necessary he simply said, “yes.”

Since the coronavirus vaccine has only received emergency use authorization from the federal Food and Drug Administration the military has not yet added it to its long list of required vaccines.

As of July 28, 121,450 Marines have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, while 302,035 sailors have been fully or partially inoculated to the potentially deadly virus.

In late July, President Joe Biden called on the Pentagon to consider adding the coronavirus vaccination to the list of required inoculations for service members.

“The Department of Defense is moving quickly to meet President Biden’s commitment to defeat COVID-19, and that includes being able to ensure every member of our civilian and military workforce is protected,” Jamal Brown, deputy Pentagon press secretary, said in a July 30 statement.

On July 28, the Department of Defense reinstated several mask mandates as the more transmissible delta-variant of coronavirus started causing case counts to rise across the country.

The Marine Corps already has issued guidance that Marines must carry prove of vaccination at all times on base if they wish to go maskless.

Those who are found to be maskless and unvaccinated face potential punishment, Marine Corps Times previously reported.

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