WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) – The Marine Corps discharged 66 Marines last week for refusing to receive a coronavirus vaccine as mandated by the military, leaving other services behind in a discipline related to shots.
The latest Corps actions, which resulted in an Omicron version of COVID-19 cases across the country, brought the total number of Marines booted from service for refusing a vaccine to 169.
“The speed at which this disease spreads among individuals has increased the risk to our Marines and Marine Corps missions,” the Marine Corps said in a statement. Last week.
The effect of increasing infection was also felt close to the number 2 leader of the Defense Department. The Pentagon announced Thursday that seven staff members who traveled to Hawaii, California and Nebraska with Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks last week have tested positive for the virus. Hicks and members of his personal staff have so far tested negative.
Hicks’ visit included stops at US Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in San Diego and US Strategic Command in Omaha. He also visited the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii and met families at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam who have been affected by fuel contamination in drinking water.
The department said tests showing positive results were taken at the conclusion of the trip and that contact tracing is now underway at all bases, hotels and other facilities Hicks visited.
The United States is seeing an average of 149,000 infections a day, as Omicron appears to be spreading three times faster than the delta version.
Officials say vaccines, especially with boosters, offer protection against more serious diseases. And the Pentagon has ordered all service members — active duty, National Guard and Reserves — to receive the vaccine, saying it is vital to maintaining the health and readiness of the force.
Already this week, the Pentagon said 1,000 active duty soldiers would be deployed to states to help shore up distressed health care workers.
The Marine Corps has been the most aggressive in removing soldiers who refuse the vaccine. And it has also denied all religious requests that have been processed for vaccine exemptions. As of Thursday, 3,080 of the 3,192 requests received – or more than 96% – have been processed and rejected.
Marine vaccination rates are among the lowest among the military services. The Army, Navy and Air Force have about 98% or more who have received at least one shot.