The Marine Corps said on Thursday that it had discharged hundreds of Marines for refusing to get the coronavirus vaccine as mandated by the military.
The latest actions, which came as COVID-19 cases began to ebb across the country after the omicron surge, brought the total number of Marines booted out of the service for vaccine refusal to 469.
So far, the military branch has only granted three religious exemptions.
"To date, there have been 3,538 requests for religious accommodation concerning the COVID-19 vaccine mandate," Capt. Andrew R. Wood, a Marine Corps spokesman. said, in part, in a statement sent on Thursday to NBC 7. "At this time, 3,414 have been processed and 3 requests have been approved."
“The speed with which the disease transmits among individuals has increased risk to our Marines and the Marine Corps’ mission," the Marine Corps said in a statement in December.
As of Jan. 26, 2022, the United States is seeing a current seven-day average of daily new cases of 596,860, which is down sharply from last week, when the seven-day moving average was 744,806 daily cases.
Officials say vaccines, particularly with the boosters, beef up protections against more severe illnesses. The Pentagon has ordered all service members — active duty, National Guard and reserves — to get the vaccine, saying it is critical to maintaining the health and readiness of the force.
"To date, approximately 88% of Marines who have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 were unvaccinated at the time of their hospitalization," Wood told NBC 7 on Thursday.
The Marine vaccination rate has been steadily climbing. Woods said that 95% of its active-duty service members were now fully vaccinated, while that was the case for only 87% of reserves.