Unvaccinated Marines, Navy Now Total 19K After ‘Discrepancies’ Found

Unvaccinated Marines, Navy Now Total 19K After 'Discrepancies' Found soldier readies needle with vaccine (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

By Eric Mack | Friday, 03 December 2021 07:39 AM

The number of vaccine holdouts in active-duty Marines and Navy sailors is now an estimated 19,000, a figure more than double the 9,500 original count by the services, The Washington Post reported.

The new figure comes as the deadline for those servicemembers to be vaccinated under President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's vaccine mandate expired Nov. 28.

The Marines' 5% unvaccinated rate was expected, but the Navy discovered "discrepancies" before reporting their final numbers this week, lowering the vaccination rate from last week's reported 99.8% to just over 97%, according to the Post.

Even a 3% hit on the branch "may have a deleterious effect on a unit as a whole," retired Marine Corps officer and former communications chief for the service David Lapan told the Post.

"While there is no short-term impact to readiness due to unvaccinated sailors, we are constantly evaluating the long-term impact to the force," Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Andrew DeGarmo told the Post. "The health and safety of the force is our top priority to sustain mission readiness."

DeGarmo issued a statement on the misreported numbers, now announcing they have been "appropriately corrected."

"We strive to provide the most accurate and timely information to maintain transparency regarding the Navy's effort to fight COVID-19," his statement added.

There were also more than 8,000 in the Air Force refusing to be vaccinated, many awaiting decisions on their exemption requests, according to the report.

The Army vaccination deadline is Dec. 15 and about 19,000 soldiers (4% of the Army) have yet to receive any shot.

With a high bar for exemption and officials suggesting the number of permanent waivers to be granted are nominal (just 14 in the Marines and seven in the Navy thus far), the armed services stand to have some difficult decisions looming.

"Marines pride themselves on being a ready force," Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Andrew Wood told the Post. "We don't quite yet have a solid understanding of how many Marines are going to be administrative separated, or the impacts on readiness.

"There are no Marines we are trying to throw away. We're a small force already."