The Marine Corps has approved a third religious exemption to the required COVID-19 vaccine, according to its latest statement about the force’s vaccination rate.
Historically religious exemptions to vaccines were completely nonexistent, with the Corps having no history of granting one over the past ten years, Marine spokesman Capt. Andrew Wood told Marine Corps Times in October 2021.
But in mid-January, the Corps said it granted two religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine ― the first for the U.S. military. Now, it has approved a third.
A total of 3,428 Marines have requested religious exemptions and 3,377 have been processed through Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs, leaving 51 to still be decided.
The Marine Corps, following Department of Defense policy, issued an order that all Marines were required to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 by the end of November 2021 or they would be separated.
The only way to avoid both the vaccine and separation was to get an approved medical, administrative or religious exception.
With the politicization of the current vaccine rollout, thousands of Marines have applied for religious exemptions, hoping to keep their careers and avoid the shot.
“All current exemption requests are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis,” Wood said in the emailed statement. “Each request will be given full consideration with respect to the facts and circumstances submitted in the request.”
The Marine Corps is tracking 627 administrative or medical exemptions to the vaccine, most of which are temporary, Wood said.
With the third Marine receiving the exemption, the Marine Corps is approving just 0.088% of all religious exemption requests.
“The Marine Corps has a compelling governmental interest in mission accomplishment at the individual, unit, and organizational levels,” Wood said. “Adjudication Authorities pay particular attention to how religious accommodation request determinations will impact the Marine’s and unit’s ability to accomplish the mission and consider the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling government interest.”
Currently 95% of the active duty Marine Corps is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while 97% of active duty Marines are fully or partially vaccinated.
For the reserves, 87% of the force is fully vaccinated while 88% of the force is fully or partially vaccinated.
Holding true to its promise to separate Marines who refuse the vaccine, the Corps already has administratively separated 399 Marines, Wood said.
No other U.S. military branch has yet approved any religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine.
In the active duty Army, 2,910 permanent religious exemptions have been requested, with 266 disapproved so far and zero approved, according to data released Wednesday.