The Navy has signed off on five permanent medical exemptions for the mandatory COVID-19 vaccine.
Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Andrew DeGarmo told Navy Times Monday that the Navy has approved five permanent medical exemptions for active-duty and Reserve sailors facing a lasting condition — like an allergy to an ingredient in the vaccine.
The service is not disclosing how many requests for temporary medical waivers the Navy has received so far because they are constantly in flux, he said. Temporary medical exemptions would apply to those with short-term medical limitations, such as those undergoing a surgery or currently battling COVID-19 and need to wait until they recover to receive the jab.
Navy officials also say they are not sharing how many religious accommodation requests, which are included under the administrative exemptions umbrella, have been received because those, too, are constantly changing as they are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. However, DeGarmo said the Navy has not approved any religious exemptions at this time.
Active-duty sailors have until Nov. 14 to get their last dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while those in the Navy Reserve have until Dec. 14 to meet the deadlines for fully vaccinated status, which are Nov. 28 and Dec. 28, respectively. That gives sailors two weeks to become fully immunized against COVID-19.
The Navy announced last month that it was creating a COVID Consolidated Disposition Authority to separate sailors who fail to follow the vaccine mandate. Additionally, sailors could receive as low as a general discharge under honorable conditions if they are separated only for their vaccine refusal. That could eliminate their eligibility for some veteran benefits.
Meanwhile, the service says 95 percent of active-duty sailors and 91 percent of the total force are fully vaccinated, while 99 percent of active-duty sailors and 96 percent of the total force have received at least one COVID-19 shot, according to figures released Oct. 27.
More than 70 service members across all branches have died due to complications from COVID-19, according to Pentagon data, with at least 15 of those from the Navy. In the Navy, a total of 171 have died, when factoring in Navy civilians, dependents and contractors, as of Oct. 27.
That’s up from the 164 deaths the Navy recorded on Oct. 14 when the guidance was released.
“Tragically, there have been 164 deaths within the Navy family due to COVID-19, far exceeding the combined total of all other health or mishap related injuries and deaths over the same time period,” the NAVADMIN said. “144 of these were not immunized and 20 had an undisclosed immunization status.”
The Marine Corps has also issued guidance stipulating that Marines who fail to receive the COVID-19 vaccine will be separated from service. The Marine Corps has the same deadlines as the Navy for becoming fully vaccinated.
Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Andrew Wood said that no religious exemptions have been issued in the service, and that the Marine Corps does not have any record of approving religious exemptions for vaccines in the past 10 years.
“All current exemption requests are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis,” Wood said in an email to Navy Times. “Each request will be given full consideration with respect to the facts and circumstances submitted in the request.”
“We will publish a consolidated report of the number of approved exemptions when the deadline has passed,” Wood said.