Navy pushes Sailors, Marines toward the COVID vaccine

The U.S. Navy on Monday eased restrictions for the hundreds of thousands of Sailors who received the COVID-19 vaccine, a move that puts more pressure on the remaining Sailors to get the shot.

More than 230,000 Sailors and Marines are now fully vaccinated, less than half of the total Navy-Marine force of 530,000. Those who are vaccinated get the following benefits as of Monday:

  • They are no longer required to conduct a 14-day restriction of movement sequester prior to deployment.

  • They are eligible to use base services like gyms, laundry facilities and commissaries during port calls in “safe haven” ports such as Guam, Bahrain and others.

  • They may be free to lose the mask and ignore the usual social distancing guidelines in some situations “in order to train and operate in a more realistic and unimpeded shipboard setting.”

Those who aren’t vaccinated get none of these benefits and will also be subjected to an ongoing education campaign that touts the benefits of the vaccine.

“This guidance encourages commanding officers to continue to make every effort to educate their crews on the importance of vaccination and facilitate open discussions with medical professionals if there are questions,” the Navy said. “Health protection measures like vaccination, face coverings, social distancing and staying home during periods of illness are the greatest influencers to prevent and isolate COVID-19.”

The Navy made it clear that it prefers vaccinated Sailors and Marines, although it can’t yet require vaccination because the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has not yet given its full approval to any vaccine.

“According to Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, ‘The science is pretty clear, vaccinations are key to best protecting our Sailors. The more Sailors that are vaccinated, the better for them, their families, the Navy and the Nation,’” the Navy reported. “Fully immunized Sailors allow the Navy to provide increased mission assurance while remaining equipped to deploy forward and win every day in competition, conflict and crisis.”

There has been some resistance to getting the vaccine across all branches of the military, and last week, the Pentagon said that about 44 percent of all enlistees are fully vaccinated.

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