No Deadline, No Problem: 95% of Active-Duty Coasties Have Received a COVID-19 Shot

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Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, Alaska COVID-19 vaccine
Coast Guard Cmdr. Zachary Woodward, a medical officer and pharmacist at Base Kodiak, extracts a COVID-19 vaccine from a vial before administering the vaccine to personnel at Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, Alaska, on Jan. 14, 2021. (Melissa McKenzie/U. S. Coast Guard)

As the Defense Department military branches pass or near their deadlines to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, 95.2% of those serving in the active-duty Coast Guard have received at least one immunition even though the service doesn’t have any time limits.

As of Nov. 19 -- the most recent data provided by the service, nearly 94% of Coasties had been fully vaccinated and an additional 1.4% had received at least one dose, meaning that roughly 2,000 members still need to start the series or get the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot.

Coast Guard spokeswoman Lt. Sondra-Kay Kneen said the service has received requests for religious waivers and medical exemptions and is processing them but is currently "unable to provide interim data" that would show how many of those remaining have asked for a waiver or won't get inoculated.

The Coast Guard, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, is unique among the armed forces, because its leadership has decided against issuing a mandatory vaccine deadline for personnel.

The DoD armed services have set deadlines that range from Nov. 2 for the active-duty Air Force and Space Force to summer 2022 for non-drilling Army National Guard and Reserve forces.

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The Coast Guard instead has ordered active-duty and reserve members "to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as operations allow, starting immediately," according to Kneen.

There have been about 3,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among active-duty Coast Guard men and women and an additional 500 cases across the Ready Reserve and among civilian employees, according to data provided by the service.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, seven civilians or Reserve members have died from the illness. No active-duty Coast Guardsmen have lost their lives to COVID-19.

Kneen said the Coast Guard is counseling its members on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine and will take action against members who do not get vaccinated or don't currently have a medical or religious waiver or a pending request for one.

"While it is the Coast Guard's desire to avoid separating military members from Service, ultimately, if these unvaccinated members continue to refuse to follow the lawful general order to get vaccinated and do not have a pending or approved medical exemption or pending or approved religious accommodation, the members may be separated from Service," wrote Kneen in an email to Military.com.

The Coast Guard's vaccine data places it third among the six branches of the armed forces, with the Space Force's figures being included in the Air Force's tally.

Before the Thanksgiving holiday, the Navy announced that 97% of its force of nearly 348,000 met a Nov. 28 deadline for being fully vaccinated, while another 2.8% had at least one dose -- a 99.8% completion rate and the top among the services.

As of Tuesday, however, the Navy had reduced those figures, saying that fluctuations in the number of sailors entering and leaving the service greatly affect the percentage calculations.

The Navy reported that as of Nov. 29, 96.3% of active-duty sailors were fully vaccinated and an additional .9% had received at least one dose.

The Marine Corps ranks last, announcing Monday that just 91% of its active-duty members were fully vaccinated, meaning that nearly 10% of Marines -- nearly 18,000 members, including the 3% who have received at least one shot -- dragged their heels on meeting their Nov. 28 deadline, are seeking a waiver or simply are refusing their shots.

The Air Force and Space Force faced the earliest deadline of all branches -- Nov. 2. Before the holiday, 96.6% of all airmen and Guardians were fully vaccinated and an additional .5% had received at least one dose.

Army active-duty soldiers still have a week before they must be fully vaccinated, facing a Dec. 8 deadline.

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

As of Nov. 23, the Defense Department armed services have had 253,989 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Seventy-six members have died, including the most recent, Electronics Technician 1st Class William Matthews, a 47-year-old Navy reservist from Lewisville, Texas, who died Nov. 24 after battling COVID-19 for nearly three weeks.

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

Related: Coast Guard, National Guard Bureau Prepping for Mandatory COVID Vaccines

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