Nearly 9,000 Marines have not gotten any COVID-19 vaccination shots with most not filing for an exemption despite a Nov. 28 mandatory deadline, according to statistics provided by the Marine Corps. Without an excuse many are now in jeopardy of being booted from the service.
The Marine Corps reported Monday that 5% of the force had not gotten even one shot before the deadline passed. That would mean around 9,000 Marines are completely unvaccinated.
About 1,300 have temporary exemptions from the vaccine, or pending religious exemption requests, meaning the majority of the unvaccinated Marines who haven't gotten any shots appear to be at risk of being dismissed from the service. Additional Marines who are only partially vaccinated could also be at risk.
Capt. Andrew Wood, a Marine Corps spokesman, said that according to medical tracking software, the Marines have about 9,500 service members who are not fully vaccinated, a figure that would include those with exemptions and those who are only partially vaccinated.
Hundreds more may also have had a recently expired exemption or been vaccinated but not yet entered into the service's tracking system, according to the Marine Corps.
A major point of conversation throughout the mandate in all the branches was the possibility of religious exemptions from the vaccine. The Marine Corps said in a press release issued Nov. 29 that, to date, there have been 2,441 requests for religious accommodation over the mandate out of a force of almost 180,000.
"At this time, 1,902 have been processed and zero requests have been approved," the statement read.
Some Marines have received other exemptions, though. The statement noted that 316 Marines have been given temporary medical exemptions and 452 have been granted a temporary administrative exemption. The latter are typically granted for service members who plan to get out of the military in the next 180 days.
Fourteen service members have been granted a permanent medical exemption.
The Marines have said unequivocally that any service member who refused the vaccine would be discharged. The statement released on Nov. 29 did not offer details about how swiftly that process will proceed.
Wood said so far zero Marines have been separated using a vaccine refusal discharge code. The Corps also did not say what will happen to Marines who have only one shot -- technically missing the deadline that required them to have their second dose no later than Nov. 14.
The service lagged behind the other military branches in vaccinating its members by as much as 30 percentage points earlier this year.
By contrast, the Air Force, whose deadline was Nov. 2, got 96.6% of airmen and Space Force guardians to get both shots. Another .5% were partially vaccinated. Meanwhile, the Navy, whose deadline was also Nov. 2, last reported 97% of active-duty sailors were fully immunized and 99.8% received at least one dose on Nov. 24.
Earlier this month, the Navy said it has not granted any religious exemptions and only five permanent medical exemptions.
"I have great appreciation for all those who made these vaccinations possible, including the civilian and Navy medical personnel who worked tirelessly over the past months to protect our Marines and families," Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger said in a statement.
Marines in the reserves have until Dec. 28 to meet the deadline. The branch said 79% of the Marine Corps Reserve had received at least one dose of the vaccine.
-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.