News Branch Marine Corps

The Marine Corps won’t expel all unvaccinated Marines en masse on the Nov. 28 deadline, Navy secretary says

'We're just not going to all kick them out on the day of the deadline itself.'
Jeff Schogol Avatar
ARLINGTON, Va. (Nov. 10, 2021) — Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro delivers remarks during a wreath-laying ceremony in honor of the U.S. Marine Corps' 246th birthday at the Marine Corps War Memorial, Arlington, Va., Nov. 10, 2021. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class T. Logan Keown/Released)

All active-duty Marines are required to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by Nov. 28, but that doesn’t mean every unvaccinated Marine will be separated by Nov. 29, said Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro. 

“We will be addressing each case on a case-by-case basis,” Del Toro told reporters on Wednesday. “We’re just not going to all kick them out on the day of the deadline itself.”

The Navy Department will treat unvaccinated Marines “in a very respectful manner” and work with them so they understand the consequences of refusing the vaccine, Del Toro said during a conference call about a recent Navy wargame.

In October, the Marine Corps announced that Marines who refuse to get vaccinated will face a litany of career-ending ramifications including administrative separation. About 91% of active-duty Marines are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and a total of 94% of active-duty Marines have had at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the most recent data provided by the Marine Corps. That means nearly 16,500 active-duty Marines are not fully vaccinated.

“We’re going to try find out what’s their problem and holdup in getting the vaccine, try to counsel them the best we can, offer them an opportunity to change their mind with regards to the vaccinations,” Del Toro said. “Hopefully, they’ll get the vaccination at that point in time. And if they don’t, obviously, then they’re not going to be able to continue serving in the Marine Corps.”

covid-19 vaccine
FILE PHOTO: A U.S. Marine receives the COVID vaccine in Kuwait, Mar. 16, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob Yost.)

But not all those Marines have outright refused to get the vaccine, a Corps official said. A substantial portion of Marines who have not yet been vaccinated have applied for religious, administrative, or medical exemptions, which are being considered. Any Marine whose request for an exemption is denied still has the option of getting vaccinated.

No data on the number of Marines who have requested exemptions from the vaccine mandate is currently available, according to the Marine Corps.

Unvaccinated Marines who have not yet applied for an exemption will face a review to determine if they can remain in the Corps. All active-duty Marines are required to have been vaccinated at least two weeks prior to the Nov. 28 deadline.

“Per Marine Corps policy (MARADMINs 462/21, 533/21, and 612/21), any active-duty Marine or Ready Reserve Marine in an active-duty status who did not receive a final vaccination dose by Nov. 14 is considered unvaccinated,” said Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Andrew Wood. “All unvaccinated Marines without a pending or approved administrative exemption, medical exemption, or religious accommodation, or appeal, will be processed for administrative separation.”

A Marine receives the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor aboard Edson Range, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 24, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Erick J. ClarosVillalta/Released)

Since Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced in August that all service members are required to get vaccinated for COVID-19, each of the military branches has set its own deadline for when troops have to meet the vaccine requirement.

The Navy, which set a Nov. 28 deadline for active-duty sailors to comply with the mandate, is the most vaccinated military branch: 96.7% of active-duty sailors are fully immunized and 99.7% of active-duty sailors have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the service, which has granted six medical waivers and no religious exemptions. That leaves roughly 11,526 sailors who are still not fully vaccinated.

The Department of the Air Force required active-duty airmen and Space Force Guardians to be vaccinated by Nov. 2, the earliest deadline of the military branches. Currently, 8,068 active-duty airmen and Space Force Guardians who are not yet vaccinated, of which 1,067 are listed as having “refused” the vaccine, according to the service’s website. 

So far, the Air Force has approved 1,377 medical exemptions and 240 administrative exemptions for active-duty airmen and Guardians. Another 4,817 active-duty personnel have pending requests for religious accommodations. None have been granted so far.

The Army is reporting that 91.5% of active-duty soldiers have been fully vaccinated ahead of the Dec. 15 deadline. That leaves more than 41,000 active-duty soldiers who are not yet fully vaccinated. So far, the Army has granted one medical exemption but no religious waivers for active-duty soldiers.

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