Keeping it 100%: Nearly All Active-Duty Sailors Vaccinated Against COVID-19

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Commanding officer of the USS Porter receives the COVID-19 vaccine
Cmdr. Thomas Ralston, commanding officer of the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter, receives the COVID-19 vaccine from Hospital Corpsman Kevin Gonzalez in Souda Bay, Greece, Feb, 20, 2021. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Damon Grosvenor)

As the deadline approaches for active-duty sailors and Marines to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the U.S. Navy is closing in on 100% compliance, with fewer than 700 sailors not yet having received a dose.

According to data provided Wednesday by the Navy, 97% of the service's roughly 343,000 sailors are fully immunized, while an additional 2.8% have received at least one dose. Six sailors have received permanent medical exemptions, and none has gotten a waiver for religious reasons.

Meanwhile, the Marine Corps faces an uphill battle in meeting the Nov. 28 deadline set by Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro: As of Wednesday, 94% of Marines had received at least one dose of the vaccine and 91% were fully vaccinated -- the lowest rates of any of the Defense Department's service branches.

That means roughly 10,800 Marines have ignored the deadline or are seeking exemptions.

The Corps has not released data on religious or medical waivers, but a spokesman said Wednesday that all requests are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

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"Each request will be given full consideration with respect to the facts and circumstances submitted in the request," noted a statement released by Capt. Andrew Wood, a communications strategy officer for Headquarters Marine Corps.

The Air Force and Space Force faced the earliest deadline of all branches -- Nov. 2. As of Wednesday, 97.1% of all airmen and Guardians had received at least one dose -- 600 more than in the days immediately following the deadline.

According to the Air Force, 7,874 members remain unvaccinated, including 4,756 who have requested a religious exemption, 1,993 who "haven't started the series" or had their vaccines properly documented, and 1,125 who have simply refused to get the shots.

Air Force officials have said those who refuse to comply with the mandate will face counseling and disciplinary action for disobeying a lawful order. The Air Force already took action against 40 basic and military trainees who refused the shot, dismissing them from the service.

On Monday, the service added a new restriction on its vaccine refusers: not issuing them orders for new assignments.

According to what appeared to be a memo released Tuesday by Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, the service's deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, and posted to Facebook, airmen who have refused the vaccine, as well as those waiting for a decision on exemption requests, will not receive any permanent change of station orders starting Nov. 29.

"This restriction will remain in place until the member is either fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or receives an approved medical exemption or religious accommodation," Kelly wrote.

Only those unvaccinated and partially vaccinated personnel who already have processed out of their base or shipped their household goods or vehicles by Nov. 29 will be allowed to proceed to their next duty station.

According to the Air Force, the new policy will be good for a year.

Soldiers have several weeks before they must be fully vaccinated, although they would have needed to complete the series of two shots by Nov. 24 to be considered fully immunized by the Army’s Dec. 8 deadline.

Army officials said Wednesday that, as of Nov. 19, 95% of active-duty soldiers had received at least one dose, including 92% who are fully vaccinated.

The service has approved two permanent medical exemptions and no religious exemptions, Army spokesman Lt. Col. Terence Kelley told Military.com.

Army leadership said last week that soldiers who refuse the vaccine may stay in the service under certain circumstances but will be barred from reenlistment, promotion and school opportunities.

In a memo to the force, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said soldiers would not be dismissed from the service, but their records would be "flagged," signaling that they are non-promotable.

Navy officials have said they will separate all sailors who refuse the vaccines and do not have an exemption. But Del Toro said last week that all will be counseled and given a chance to comply before being forced out of the military.

"We're going to ... offer them an opportunity to change their mind," he said during a call with reporters.

As of Wednesday, there have been 253,989 cases of COVID-19 among U.S. service members and 75 deaths, according to the Defense Department.

The Coast Guard, with 40,487 members, falls under the Department of Homeland Security. As of this week, nearly 94% of the service's active-duty force had been fully vaccinated and 95% had received at least one dose, meaning that roughly 2,000 members still need to get their immunizations or a waiver.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

 Editor’s Note: This story was corrected to reflect the number of sailors who have not yet received a dose or who are waiting for a response to their waiver requests, according to the Navy.

Related: After Deadline, VA and DoD Middle of the Pack for COVID-19 Vaccinations, White House Says

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