San Diego-area sailors and Marines on active duty face administrative discharges from the military if they fail to meet the Navy department’s Nov. 28 coronavirus vaccination deadline, according to the latest orders issued by the services.
Those orders, issued in separate messages this month, give unit commanders a road map on how to proceed with those who refuse to comply with the vaccine mandate.
According to the Marine Corps’ latest numbers, 92 percent of the Corps has received at least one dose of the vaccine and 83 percent are fully vaccinated. For the Navy, 99 percent have received at least one dose and 95 percent are fully vaccinated.
These figures drop for the Reserves of both branches, which have an extra month to comply with the Pentagon’s vaccine mandate.
The military considers vaccination a readiness issue, the Navy and Marine Corps messages say. Across the military, 71 troops have died from COVID-19 as have 358 military civilians. About 250,000 service members have contracted the virus, with more than 2,200 of them requiring hospitalization.
Neither the Navy or Marine Corps have released localized numbers for coronavirus cases or vaccination rates.
Those sailors and Marines who are processed out of the military for refusing the vaccine face a general discharge under honorable conditions but could be punished further if there is other associated misconduct, such as refusing to wear a mask or falsifying vaccine cards, the messages say.
Service members eligible for medical or religious waivers are the only ones that are exempt from the mandate. However, those waivers are reviewed on a case-by-case basis and might only delay a service member from being held to the mandate, according to a Navy spokesperson.
Medical waivers must be approved in consultation with a doctor and are reviewed every 30 days, said Lt. Cmdr. Andrew DeGarmo, a Navy spokesperson.
Religious waivers have a different approval process and for other vaccines, such as flu, Antrax and smallpox, the service has not approved a single religious exemption in the last seven years, DeGarmo said.
No religious waivers for the COVID-19 vaccine have been approved in either the Navy or Marine Corps. Service members must be two weeks past their second doses of Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines by Nov. 28 to be considered fully vaccinated, meaning those who have not received their first doses now will not meet that deadline.
The Navy, Marine Corps and Defense department have all declined to say how many religious waiver requests have been filed, both in San Diego and service-wide.
The Pentagon mandated the vaccine for its forces after the Food and Drug Administration fully approved the Pfizer vaccine in August but left it up to each service to set their own deadlines. The Air and Space Forces are first with a Nov. 2 deadline; The Army, with a Dec. 15 deadline for active-duty, is the last. Army Reservist and National Guard troops have until June 30, 2022.
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