With the approaching November 28 deadline for having the COVID-19 vaccine, the U.S. Marine Corps is about to have 10,000 Marines, around six percent of the force, not in compliance with the regulations, according to Washington Post. The 94 percent of the USMC’s vaccination rate is the worst among all of the armed services. The percentage indicates fully vaccinated and servicemembers who will be fully vaccinated by the deadline.
For the 10,000 unvaccinated Marines, it is now too late to be fully vaccinated by November 28. Servicemembers are considered fully vaccinated 14 days after getting a single Johnson & Johnson vaccination or 14 days after their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
The failure to get so many Marines to comply with the deadline set down by the Corps is a body shot to an organization that prides itself on strict adherence to orders and quick response to crises. The number of Marines in non-compliance is bound to affect readiness.
The Marines released a statement last week saying that 91 percent of the force is already fully vaccinated and 94 percent of the force is in the process of becoming fully vaccinated in compliance with the deadline set for next Sunday.
In August, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced that COVID-19 vaccinations were mandatory for the military. However, he left it up to the individual services to designate by which date the vaccination would become mandatory.
The Army deadline for active-duty soldiers is December 15 and June 30 for the National Guard. The Army now has at least 95 percent of the force either in total or scheduled compliance. The Navy has the same November 28 deadline; with 99.7, it has the highest vaccination rate of the military. The Air Force is closely behind with a 96.4 percent vaccination rate.
The Special Operations Command, which is comprised of special operations troops from all of the services, is vaccinated at 98 percent according to SOCOM Commander Army General Richard Clarke.
The Corps’ Readiness Could Be Affected
Last month, Commandant of the Marine Corps General David Berger, and his senior enlisted adviser, Sergeant Major Troy E. Black, distributed a video to all members of the Corps asking the unvaccinated Marines to comply with the imposed deadline.
“When something bad happens around the world and the president says, ‘I need to know how long it’s going to take to get Marines there,’ it’s too late then to get vaccinated,” Berger said.
“It’s challenging for us to be able to continue the mission,” Black added, “if we’re not ready to go.”
Berger added that “We need every single Marine in the unit to be vaccinated. We don’t have extra Marines. We’re a pretty small force, and we have to make sure that everybody on the team is ready to go all the time. That’s our job.”
The message has largely fallen on deaf ears, something that the Corps is unaccustomed to.
“The Marine Corps has always recognized the threats posed by the COVID-19 Pandemic as a readiness issue, which is why we have consistently emphasized the importance of receiving the vaccine,” Captain Andrew Wood, a Marine Corps spokesman at the Pentagon stated.
“We are still ready to fight and win our nation’s battles should we be called,” Captain Wood added.
Religious and medical exemptions are rarely being approved, according to the Washington Post article.
The Navy has approved just six permanent medical exemptions and no religious exemptions for any vaccine for the past seven years, Navy officials said. The Army has granted just one permanent medical exemption and, like the Navy, zero religious exemptions. The Air Force has approved 1,400 temporary medical exemptions which can range from servicemembers already suffering from the coronavirus to awaiting a doctor’s orders to be vaccinated. The Air Force has received 4,800 religious exemption requests but hasn’t approved any.