The Marine Corps didn't mince words Monday about what will happen to Marines who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine by its Nov. 28 deadline: You will be kicked out.
A new message to the force said, "Marines refusing the COVID-19 vaccination, absent an approved administrative or medical exemption, religious accommodation or pending appeal, shall be processed for administrative separation."
Plus, Marines who are considered to have refused the shot already will have their promotions put on hold and will not deploy, and officers will be relieved of command.
The Corps does not consider a Marine to have "refused the vaccine" until any administrative, medical or religious exemptions are considered and decided - though the branch says that, as of Oct. 20, no religious exemptions have been approved for the COVID-19 vaccine.
The deadline should come as little surprise to Marines as the branch's leaders, as well as those of the Navy, have been laying out guidance and deadlines for vaccination for months. In September, leaders in both sea services announced that sailors and Marines would have 90 days to get vaccinated.
A message that followed on Oct. 6 noted that Marines had until Oct. 17 to get the first of the Moderna or Pfizer shots in order to make the deadline, since the branch will consider a Marine fully vaccinated 14 days after their final shot. At this point, Marines who are looking to stay in the service need to get the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine before Nov. 14.
The Marine Corps said that 83% of its active force was fully vaccinated as of Oct. 20; the figure rises to 92% when factoring in partial vaccinations. By contrast, the Navy announced that 93% of active-duty sailors are fully immunized, and 98% have received at least one dose of a vaccine.
The message notes that Marines who are separated for refusing the shot "will not be eligible for involuntary separation pay and will be subject to recoupment of any unearned special or incentive pays and advance educational assistance."
The new message also states that Marine leaders will "retain authority to take any additional adverse administrative or disciplinary action they deem appropriate" in addition to administrative separation.
The Corps' policy follows that of the Navy, which released its own message two weeks ago.
-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.