Sailor Vaccination Rates Lower Than Earlier Reports, Navy Says

COVID-19 vaccination aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford
A U.S. Navy hospital corpsman administers a COVID-19 vaccination to a sailor in the USS Gerald R. Ford's aft weapon handing area, Sept. 9, 2021. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zachary Melvin)

Editor's note: After publication, the Navy contacted to say that the change in vaccination figures was due to "discrepancies in the data" within the Navy's vaccination reporting and tracking system rather than "changes to military personnel numbers" as the service had initially said. In a statement, the Navy said that these "discrepancies included total force numbers and redundant entries."

With its vaccination deadline passed, the Navy announced that 96.3% of all sailors are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 -- a slight decline from last week that it blamed on personnel shifts.

The service announced on Nov. 24 in its regular update that 97% of active-duty sailors had been fully immunized amid the pandemic and an order from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that all troops get the shot.

Lt. Devin Arneson, a spokeswoman for the Navy, told in a phone call that "changes to military personnel numbers resulted in that slight percent decrease, which account for personnel who were separated, retired or are no longer active duty."

Arneson said the latest figures contain a caveat saying "previous releases reflected a snapshot of data available at that time." The update also says the data "reflects validated and the most up-to-date information."

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However, none of the previous updates the Navy released mentioned the data being an estimate.

The Navy's adjusted vaccination figures still put it on par with the Air Force, which had a Nov. 2 deadline and reported 96.6% of airmen and Space Force Guardians had both shots.

The reported percentages of Navy vaccinations rises to 97.2% when you add sailors who have received one shot but are not considered fully inoculated. Last week, the service reported that a staggering 99.8% of sailors had received at least one dose of the vaccine, but that figure was also reduced in the most recent update.

The Navy is ahead of the Marine Corps, which released data earlier this week showing 95% of Marines got at least one shot. The Corps did not say how many Marines were fully vaccinated.

Data on how many sailors refused the shot has not yet been released, but the service did say it received 2,531 requests for exemptions to the vaccination mandate on religious grounds, which is out of about 340,000 total sailors. The Navy's deputy chief of naval operations for manpower, personnel, training and education, a three-star admiral, has been deciding who gets an exemption and who doesn't.

So far, no religious exemptions have been granted.

In comparison, the nearly 180,000 strong Marine Corps received a very similar 2,441 requests for religious accommodation and has also approved none, though hundreds remain under consideration.

The Navy did grant seven permanent medical exemptions and 400 temporary ones as well as 134 administrative exemptions. The latter are typically granted for service members who plan to get out of the military in the next 180 days.

The service declined to say how many sailors now face the discharge under its policies, citing still-pending exemption requests. However, Arneson noted that the Navy's last official message on discharges noted that more guidance would be released this week.

Meanwhile, sailors in the reserves have until Dec. 28 to get all of their shots. The latest figures show that 85.6% of the Navy's reserve force is fully vaccinated.

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

Related: Navy Tells Vaccine Refusers They Have Less Than a Week to Get the Shot, or Face Discharge

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