Marine Corps removes 206 service members for refusing to get COVID-19 vaccine

FORT KNOX, KY - MAY 31: A member of the Honor Guard stands with the peaked cap of the US Marine Corps during a Memorial Day ceremony in the Fort Knox Main Post Cemetery on May 31, 2021 in Fort Knox, Kentucky. The cemetery is a burial ground for 967 U

The Marine Corps has removed 206 service members due to their refusal to comply with the Pentagon’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate. This latest action comes as virus cases are rising nationwide in relation to the omicron variant. 

Approximately 94% of active service members in the Marine Corps are fully vaccinated and 83% of reserve service members are fully vaccinated. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the requirement in August, ordering service leaders to enforce their own deadlines. 

FOX obtained a statement from the Marine Corps on the matter and their vaccination policy. Under the policy: 

"Any active duty Marine and Ready Reserve Marine in an active duty status who did not receive a final vaccination dose by Nov. 14 or any reserve component Marine who did not receive a final vaccination dose by Dec. 14 is considered unvaccinated. All unvaccinated Marines without a pending or approved administrative exemption, medical exemption, or religious accommodation, or appeal, will be processed for administrative separation."

The Marine Corps says active and reserve service members have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they are medically or administratively exempt.

Medical exemptions can be either permanent or temporary, based on the time of the condition which qualifies that service member for a medical exemption. Administrative exemptions are short-term and related to what the Marine Corps calls "logistical considerations."

Marines requesting a vaccine exemption due to a religious accommodation will have their request reviewed on a case-by-case basis. According to the Marine Corps, each request is given full consideration with respect to the facts and circumstances submitted in the service members’ request.

To date, the Marine Corps has received 3,247 requests for religious accommodations regarding their COVID-19 vaccine mandate. But of the 3,115 requests processed, none have been approved.

On Dec. 23, the Marine Corps said it had kicked out 169 service members for refusing to comply with the military’s vaccine mandate.

Marine vaccination rates are the lowest among the military services, the Associated Press reported. The Army, Navy, and Air Force all have nearly or more than 98% who have gotten at least one shot.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

This story was reported from Washington, D.C.