As the deadline for active-duty sailors to get the mandatory COVID-19 vaccine passed Monday, the sea service has yet to grant any vaccine exemptions on the basis of religious accommodation, according to figures released Tuesday.
As of Tuesday, 2,531 requests for exemption from the vaccine mandate had been filed by sailors on religious grounds, though officials could not say how many of those requests had been ruled upon.
Officials also could not say how many permanent medical, temporary medical and administrative requests had been routed up the chain.
But as of Tuesday, the sea service had granted seven permanent medical exemptions, 400 temporary medical exemptions and 134 administrative exemptions.
Administrative exemption applications are handled at lower command levels and can involve temporary hurdles to getting vaccinated, such as a sailor transferring to a new assignment, being on emergency leave, or a sailor death that is not yet reflected in Navy records, according to Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Andrew DeGarmo.
Temporary medical exemptions are also handled at lower levels and can involve a sailor who currently has COVID or is suffering from another malady that renders vaccination temporarily undoable, he said.
Sailors whose exemption applications are denied have five days to begin the vaccination process or face separation, DeGarmo said.
As Tuesday, 96.3 percent of the active-duty force was fully vaccinated.
On the Reserve side, 85.6 percent of sailors were fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, and those sailors have until Dec. 28 to get their jabs.
In addition to being booted from the service, sailors who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine could lose out on education benefits, promotions and bonus pay, the Navy announced earlier this month.
That announcement comes after the Navy stood up a COVID Consolidated Disposition Authority in October to “ensure a fair and consistent process” handling separation determinations for those who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine, and the Nov. 15 Navy message outlined additional administrative actions such sailors may encounter.
Sailors rejecting the COVID-19 vaccine are not eligible to reenlist or extend their enlistment. Commanders must cancel extension agreements if a sailor has an extension agreement that hasn’t taken effect and is also refusing the vaccine, according to the NAVADMIN.
The guidance also instructs commanders to delay the promotions of officers and to withhold advancements for enlisted personnel rejecting the jab.
“Navy service members refusing the vaccine who are in a frocked status should be defrocked as soon as feasible,” the NAVADMIN said.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.