103 Marines discharged for refusing to take COVID vaccine

Up to 30,000 service members remain unvaccinated and could face the same fate.

ByLuis Martinez ABCNews logo
Thursday, December 16, 2021
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WASHINGTON -- One hundred three Marines have been discharged for refusing to take the COVID vaccine, the Marine Corps said Thursday, as the military services have begun to discharge a pool of possibly as many as 30,000 active duty service members who still refuse to be vaccinated -- even after multiple opportunities to do so past vaccination deadlines.

In late August, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered that the COVID vaccine become mandatory for all U.S. military personnel; until then it had been voluntary.

SEE ALSO: Air Force discharges 27 people for refusal to get COVID vaccine

The military services quickly set up their own deadline dates and warned service members that they could face being discharged unless they were vaccinated, which is in line with the Pentagon's stance that choosing to remain unvaccinated is a violation of a lawful order from Austin.

While the percentage of vaccinated active duty personnel in each service is at 95% or higher, the number of unvaccinated personnel is close to 30,000.

Earlier this week, the Air Force became the first to make public that it had followed through on the warning, announcing that 27 airmen had received administrative discharges.

According to the latest numbers provided by the Air Force and the Navy, 7,365 airmen and 5,472 sailors are unvaccinated, either refusing the vaccine outright or awaiting the processing of requests for administrative, medical, or religious exemptions.

President Joe Biden on Thursday stressed the need to vaccinate the 66 million Americans who have not received their COVID-19 vaccination shots.

The Marine Corps said Thursday that 95% of its active duty force of 182,500 Marines had received at least one COVID vaccine shot., the lowest percentage among the military services. The Marine Corps has approved 1,007 medical and administrative exemptions and is still processing 2,863 of the 3,144 requests made for a religious exemption.

The Army announced Thursday that nearly 98 percent of its 478,000 active duty soldiers have been vaccinated, meaning close to 10,000 soldiers either refusing to take the vaccine outright or seeking exemptions.

The Army said 3,864 soldiers have refused the vaccine outright while an additional 6,263 are awaiting the processing of their requests for an exemption.

The majority of service members who remain unvaccinated have sought religious exemptions, but none of the services has yet to approve an exemption on religious grounds.

The defense authorization bill passed by Congress this week guarantees that service members who are kicked out of the military for refusing the vaccine will receive either an honorable discharge or a "general discharge under honorable conditions."

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Unlike the other services, the Army has decided that it will not discharge soldiers who refuse to be vaccinated, instead they will be "flagged" and will not be able to be promoted and will have to leave the Army when their enlistment contracts expire.

Flagged soldiers who have refused to get the vaccine will have to submit to regular COVID testing, Lt. Col. Terence Kelley, an Army spokesman told ABC News.

A soldier reporting daily to the same job location will be tested weekly, while those who are teleworking and have to visit their job location will have to be tested within 72 hours of the meeting or job activity, Kelley said.

The video in the media player above was used in a previous report.