Navy Approves Five Permanent Medical, No Religious Exemptions for COVID-19 Vaccine to Date

November 1, 2021 6:53 PM
Navy Installations Command Force Master Chief Greg A. Vidaurri receives his second COVID-19 vaccine at Branch Health Clinic Washington Navy Yard, on Feb. 16, 2021. US Navy Photo

The Navy has so far approved five exemptions for the required COVID-19 vaccination — all medical, a Navy official told USNI News.

The service has approved five permanent medical exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine so far, said Navy spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Andrew DeGarmo. No one has been separated or discharged, as of Nov. 1, for not receiving the vaccine and the final snapshot will likely not be ready until Nov. 28, DeGarmo said.

The Navy has not released how many administrative exemptions — which is the category religious exemptions fall under — have been granted in terms of the COVID-19 vaccine, which is mandatory for all active-duty sailors and reservists. However, the Navy has not approved a religious waiver for vaccinations in the past seven years, DeGarmo said.

There are two categories of exemptions for vaccinations: administrative and medical. Under medical, there are two types: temporary and permanent. A temporary medical waiver might be granted if a person is ill and cannot get the vaccine right away or is about to have a surgery, for example. A permanent exemption could be granted for those who have an allergy to a component of a vaccine.

Permanent medical exemptions are granted by the first medical flag officer in a person’s chain of command, DeGarmo said. Appeals are decided by the Navy surgeon general.

Active-duty sailors have until Nov. 28 to be fully vaccinated against the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 or they face separation, according to a Navy administrative policy released Oct. 13, USNI News previously reported.

Full vaccination status comes two weeks after receiving either the one-shot Johnson & Johnson or two weeks after receiving the second dose of a two-dose regimen. In the case of Pfizer, the only Food and Drug Administration-approved vaccine, sailors must receive the second shot by Nov. 14.

The Navy’s ultimate goal is to have everyone in the force vaccinated, excluding those who cannot be, DeGarmo said.

The Navy has not surveyed sailors to find out if they will refuse to be vaccinated, he added.

Already, approximately 99% of active-duty sailors have received the first shot, and 95% of active-duty sailors are fully vaccinated, according to the Navy’s COVID-19 tracking data.

There is not a lot of resistance across active-duty service members, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said at a press conference last week.

As of Nov. 1, 97% of active-duty service members received the first dose, which shows the effectiveness of the mandate, Kirby said Monday.

Decisions on those who choose not to be vaccinated will be handled with compassion, Kirby said, with counseling provided to those who have not received a shot yet. It will be up to individual commanders to determine if unvaccinated service members are deployable.

The COVID-19 vaccine is not the only required vaccination for active-duty sailors. Each year, active-duty sailors are required to get the influenza shot.

There is a list of required vaccinations that each active-duty sailor must receive depending on where an individual will be deployed, according to the Military Health System.

For example, sailors in the continental United States must have vaccinations against mumps, measles and rubella (MMR); Hepatitis A; chickenpox; tetanus-diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) and polio.

Sailors who are sent to African countries will also need Hepatitis B, meningococcal, typhoid and, in most cases, yellow fever. Going to the Middle East area means that sailors will also need an anthrax vaccination if they will be there for more than 15 days.

Other vaccines might also be required, depending on the mission and area of deployment, according to the Joint Regulation on Immunizations and Chemoprophylaxis for the Prevention of Infectious Diseases.

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio is a reporter with USNI News. She has a master’s degree in science journalism and has covered local courts, crime, health, military affairs and the Naval Academy.
Follow @hmongilio

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