Marines Dismiss More Than 100 Who Refuse COVID-19 Vaccine

Carolyn Crist

December 20, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

The Marine Corps has dismissed 103 active-duty service members for refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Politico.

Those who have been dismissed are receiving general honorable discharges, which retains post-military benefits, the news outlet reported. The Marines have approved 1,007 exemptions, with 3,144 requests for religious accommodation still pending.

Military officials announced Thursday that the vast majority of service members in all branches have gotten vaccinated. The Army and Navy are each at about 98%, followed by the Air Force at 97.5%, and the Marine Corps at 95%.

At the same time, some troops will be relieved of duty. The Army, for instance, released six active-duty leaders — including two commanding officers — due to vaccine refusal, Politico reported. In addition, nearly 3,000 active-duty soldiers have received reprimands for refusing the vaccine order.

Among the Army's 478,000 active-duty soldiers, 6,200 have requested temporary or permanent exemptions, including 641 medical requests and 1,746 religious requests, the news outlet reported. So far, no religious exemptions have been approved by any of the military branches.

"Vaccinating our soldiers against COVID-19 is first and foremost about Army readiness," Christine Wormuth, the secretary of the Army, said in a statement.

"To those who continue to refuse the vaccine and are not pending a final decision on a medical or administrative exemption, I strongly encourage you to get the vaccine," she said. "If not, we will begin involuntary separation proceedings."

Earlier this week, the Air Force became the first branch of service to dismiss active-duty troops for refusing the vaccine mandate by discharging 27 service members. On Wednesday, the Navy issued guidance to leadership to begin separating the 5,731 active-duty sailors who are still unvaccinated. Starting in January, the Army will begin the process of dismissing soldiers.

The deadlines for National Guard and Reserve members come next, and some governors are seeking exemptions for their troops, according to The New York Times. On Thursday, after military officials announced their latest vaccination numbers, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott publicly released a letter that he sent to the Pentagon saying his state wouldn't impose a vaccine mandate on National Guard members.

Five other Republican governors — in Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi, Nebraska, and Wyoming — wrote a joint letter this week, also asking that their National Guard troops be exempted from the federal vaccine mandate. The Pentagon hasn't yet responded to the letter, the newspaper reported, though the Department of Defense rejected a bid last month from Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt to exclude National Guard members from the mandate.

In addition, the department released a new order this week that said all National Guard members who don't get vaccinated will receive a general order of reprimand, which could be a career-ending move, the newspaper reported. The deadline for Army National Guard troops to get vaccinated is June 30, 2022.

Sources:

Politico: "More than 100 Marines kicked out of the service for refusing Covid vaccine."

Army: "Active Army achieves 98 percent vaccination rate with less than one percent refusal rate."

The New York Times: "Vaccine Holdouts in Army and Navy Will Be Dismissed, Military Says."

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