Navy Continues COVID-19 Vaccine Separations as Fourth Vaccine Eyes Conditional FDA Approval

June 13, 2022 5:51 PM
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Gregzon Fontanilla, from Guam, prepares a COVID-19 vaccine aboard the America-class amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7) on May 10, 2022. US Navy Photo

Some sailors have received a COVID-19 vaccine that is developed differently from existing vaccines and could overcome religious objections that have been fought over in federal court.

A small percentage of sailors received Novavax COVID-19 while overseas, where the shot is considered approved, said Ed Gulick, a spokesperson for Navy medicine.

Novavax is seeking emergency use authorization from the FDAA for its version of a COVID-19 vaccine. However, that approval could be delayed, according to Axios. Novavax developed a protein-based vaccine, which is a common method for vaccines, against COVID-19. Some have theorized that those uncomfortable with the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna due to their reliance on a certain line of fetal cells and idea that the mRNA changes their bodies may be more willing to get the Novavax option, according to science journal Nature.

The Navy is continuing to issue separations for sailors who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19. As of June 8, the sea service separated 103 sailors, most of whom were the reserve members.

The Navy has so far separated 996 active-duty sailors – 16 between June 2 and June 8 – and 184 reservists – 86 in that week. The Navy also has 22 entry-level separations.

There are 3,866 active-duty sailors and 3,258 reservists who are not fully vaccinated, as of June 8. Some of these sailors are those with approved exemptions or pending ones. The Navy cannot currently separate anyone who filed a request for a religious exemption.

The Navy approved 14 permanent and 206 temporary medical exemptions for active-duty sailors and one permanent and 70 temporary medical waivers for reservists.

The sea service has approved 13 religious exemptions for members of the individual ready reserve on the condition that they get vaccinated if called to reserve or active-duty status.

The Marine Corps leads the services with 2,715 separations, about 1.5 percent of the service’s end strength, according to its June 2 COVID-19 update. The Marines have seven religious exemptions approved, as well as 742 medical and administrative ones.

The Army now has 882 separations, according to its June 10 update. The Air Force has separated 543 service members, according to its June 7 update.

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.
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