With only four days until the Marines Corps’ vaccine deadline hits, only 94% of active duty Marines are partially or fully vaccinated against COVID-19 ― putting the Marine Corps on track to have the lowest vaccination rate in the Department of Defense.
In October, Marines were presented with a pretty straight forward option: Get the vaccine, get an exemption or get out.
If, at the end of the day, 6% of the force refuses the vaccine, the Marine Corps may see around 11,000 Marines booted from its ranks.
Though the Marine Corps has remained steadfast about what the consequences will be for failing to obey the vaccine order, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro did indicate there may be some flexibility.
“We’re going to ... offer them an opportunity to change their mind,” Del Toro told reporters on Nov. 17, according to the San Diego Union Tribune.
“We’re going to work with those that decide not to get vaccinated for whatever reason,” Del Toro said in previous remarks on Nov. 8, according to the San Diego paper. “We’re going to counsel them, we’re going to talk to them and we’re going to give them opportunities first.”
Marine Corps policy gives active duty Marines until Nov. 28 to be fully vaccinated, and though four days still remain until the deadline the deadline to actually receive the shot has long passed.
Marines have the option to receive the Pfizer or Moderna two-shot vaccine regimen or the single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The deadline to receive the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine passed on Oct. 24, according to a MARADMIN. The deadline to receive the first dose of Moderna passed on Oct. 17 and the deadline to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine passed on Nov. 14.
Marines are allowed to apply for a religious, medical or administrative exemption.
The Marine Corps has not said how many Marines have applied for exemptions nor how many have been approved.
The Marine Corps has no record of approving any religious exemptions to vaccines in the past 10 years.
In contrast to the Marine Corps’ relative hesitancy, the Navy reported that 99.7% of its force was partially or fully vaccinated, while the Air Force and Space Force had 96% of forces meet its Nov. 2 deadline.
A total of 10,352 active duty airmen and guardians remained unvaccinated as of Nov. 2, but of those, 1,800 troops secured an exemption, Air Force Times previously reported.
The active duty Army has until Dec. 25 to comply with its own vaccine mandate. Despite the extra time the Army is still beating the Marine Corps with a 95% vaccination rate, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.
Since the vaccines first became available to troops the Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black have strongly urged Marines to receive the vaccination.
“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,” Berger added.