Approximately 75,500 Marines have received vaccines, including those now fully vaccinated and partially vaccinated, according to service-wide data obtained by the network.
Nearly 48,000 Marines have chosen not to receive the vaccines (38.9%). An additional 102,000 Marines haven’t yet been offered the vaccines, according to CNN.
The Marines are the first military branch to reveal vaccination rates. But the military overall has estimated that two-thirds of service members will decide to have the vaccinations — a rate of 66%, compared to a 61% acceptance rate so far for the Marines, CNN noted.
It’s not clear why vaccinations have been declined. Authorities speculate that some may be waiting for those more at risk to get the vaccines first, or are waiting for availability elsewhere, rather than through the military, according to CNN. Other reluctance could be linked to safety concerns in connection to the speed the vaccines were developed, or fears scientists say are unfounded about possible long-term effects.
“We fully understand that widespread acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccine provides us with the best means to defeat the pandemic. The key to addressing the pandemic is building vaccine confidence,” Marine Corps spokeswoman Col. Kelly Frushour told CNN in a statement.
Marine officials are reaching out to service members to encourage them to get the vaccine.
“The Navy and Marine Corps are providing substantial educational information broadly, and working with commands to ensure Marines, sailors, and beneficiaries have accurate information regarding the safety and efficacy of the vaccines to encourage individuals to get immunized,” Marine spokesperson Capt. Andrew Wood said in a statement to The Hill.
The military can’t yet make vaccines mandatory because the vaccinations have only been granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, and service members have the option to decline them.
The Defense Department has some 2.2 million service members operating around the globe. Too low a vaccine acceptance rate could affect “force readiness,” CNN noted.
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