Navy Separates 50 Enlisted Sailors for COVID-19 Vaccine Refusal

February 23, 2022 5:45 PM
Seaman Apprentice Johnnese Poomaihealani, from Waianae, Hawaii, receives a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot during a shot event in the foc’sle aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) on Jan. 3, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Navy separated 50 sailors in the past week for refusing to get vaccinated against COIVD-19, bringing the total of separated sailors to 320, according to a spokesman with the chief of naval personnel.

The sailors were all within their first six years of services and had ranks ranging from seamen recruit to petty officer first class, said service spokesman Lt. Travis Callaghan.

The Navy has not yet separated an officer due for failure to get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the service.

While the Navy has not officially removed an officer over the COVID-19 vaccine, Cmdr. Lucian Kins, the executive officer of USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81), was removed due to lack of confidence, which Navy officials told USNI News, at the time, was over failure to get vaccinated against or tested for COVID-19.

Of the total 319 active-duty sailors to have been separated, 249 served less than six years, 48 served more than six years and 22 were in their first 180 days, according to the Navy’s weekly COVID-19 update, which releases Wednesday. The sea service also separated one reservist due to continued refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The reservist, as well as the active-duty sailors who served more than 180 days, have all received honorable discharges, according to the update.

With 320 separations, the Navy has the second-highest among the military branches, with the Marine Corps separating the most members at 640, as of its last COVID-19 update, which publishes on Thursday. The Air Force separated 175 airmen, while the Army has not yet separated a soldier, according to the respective branches’ updates, released this week.

The Air Force has now granted a total of 13 religious exemptions to the vaccine, including one that was granted from an appeal, the most of any branch.

The Navy, which had not granted a religious exemption to a vaccine in at least seven years, conditionally approved one last week, when it gave a waiver to a member of the individual ready reserve on the condition that if the person were to be called up into the active-duty or reserve forces, they would need to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Navy received 3,463 religious exemption requests from active-duty sailors and 846 from reservists. It is unclear from the update how many have been adjudicated.

The Navy granted 12 permanent medical exemptions, 226 temporary medical waivers and 42 administrative ones to active-duty sailors. The sea service approved 11 temporary medical and nine administrative exemptions for reservists.

There are currently 4,820 active-duty sailors who are not fully vaccinated, a decrease of 63 from the previous week. The number of sailors not fully vaccinated does include those who in the process of getting vaccinated, are waiting on an exemption adjudication or have been granted a waiver.

The number of reservists who are not fully vaccinated decreased by 99 in the past week to 2,970.

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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