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200+ Marines kicked out for refusing COVID vaccines

U.S. Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit gather for formation, June 27, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Amy Phan/Released)
January 04, 2022

As of Dec. 28, 2021, 206 U.S. Marines have been separated from the service for refusing COVID-19 vaccines. Capt. Ryan Bruce, a Marine Corps spokesperson, confirmed the separations in an emailed statement provided to American Military News on Tuesday.

The separations come after the Marine Corps’ Nov. 28 deadline for active-duty troops to receive the vaccines. The deadline for members of the Marine Reserves to be vaccinated was Dec. 28.

In early December, the Marine Corps confirmed it had separated 103 Marines for refusing to comply with the military-wide vaccine mandate. In the ensuing weeks, and with the passage of the vaccination deadline for the Marine Reserves, the number of vaccine-related separations has doubled.

According to the Marine Corps numbers, about 95 percent of the 182,000 active-duty members of the Marine Corps’ active component is at least partially vaccinated. About 94 percent of the active-duty service is fully vaccinated. Nearly 11,000 total active-duty Marines could still face separation if they don’t receive the vaccine doses.

Among the Marine Corps’ reserve component, at least 86 percent are at least partially vaccinated, including 83 percent who are fully vaccinated.

Thousands of Marines have applied for various exemptions to the vaccine, including for administrative, medical and religious reasons.

The Marine Corps is also currently tracking 1,007 approved administrative or medical exemptions for the vaccine mandate.

As of its most recent numbers, the Marine Corps had received a total of 3,247 religious exemptions. The service has, thus far, processed 3,115 of those religious exemption requests, but has approved none.

None of the other military branches have approved religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate either.

In a Monday federal court decision, Judge Reed O’Connor of U.S. District Court Texas’ Northern District granted a preliminary injunction to 35 Naval Special Warfare service members who sued the military and President Joe Biden over the vaccine mandate. In his decision, O’Connor wrote that the service member’s religious objections to the vaccine are “undisputedly sincere.” In many cases, the plaintiffs’ commanding officers also recommended their religious accommodation requests be approved, yet none had been approved and 29 out of 35 were outright rejected.

The U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force had a total vaccination rate of about 96 percent by the time those branches reached their shared Nov. 2 vaccine deadline.

The U.S. Navy had a 96.3 percent vaccination rate as of Nov. 28, when it reached its vaccine deadline.

98 percent of the U.S. Army’s active force was either fully or partially vaccinated, as of Dec. 16. When including all components of the Army, including both the active force, Reserves and National Guard, only about 83 percent of the force has received at least one vaccine dose.

The Air Force was the first to separate service members for vaccine refusals. As of Dec. 14, the service separated 27 service members for vaccine refusals.

The Army has relieved at least six officers of their commands for refusing the vaccines and has issued 2,767 general officer written reprimands to soldiers for vaccine refusals. Those service members are continuing to serve, but the Army announced that beginning this month, it will start “involuntary separation for the less than one percent of active component Soldiers who continue to refuse the vaccination order without an approved or pending exemption.”

The U.S. Navy has not yet separated any service members for vaccine refusals, but did reportedly relieve the executive officer of the USS Winston Churchill (DDG-81) for a failure to comply with an order. The officer reportedly refused to either be vaccinated or tested for COVID-19.