Members of the U.S. Marine Corps may be required to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination if they are spotted in public without a face mask.
In May, the Department of Defense said military personnel who had received the shots were not required to wear a mask in most cases. At the time, Pentagon officials acknowledged they were relying on the honor system to enforce the updated policy. A just-released message from the Marine Corps takes the policy a step further.
“Commanders have the authority to verify vaccination status of service members. Unmasked service members must be prepared to show proof of vaccination status (CDC vaccination card or other medical documentation),” the internal USMC message stated.
The policy states that supervisors may not ask about the vaccination status of civilian employees unless there is a “reasonable basis to believe the unmasked employee has not been fully vaccinated.”
Anyone in the Marine Corps — whether military or a civilian employee — who misrepresents their vaccination status may be subject to adverse administrative or punitive actions.
Pentagon officials in June said the Marine Corps had the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate of any of the military services at 58%. The Navy was the highest at 77%. Service leaders say they cannot require all military members to be vaccinated so long as the vaccines available remain approved under emergency and not regular procedures.
Marine Corps officials said non-vaccinated military personnel must continue wearing masks while indoors, including in barracks and common spaces occupied by more than one person, such as a shared bathroom or kitchen.
“Commanders and supervisors may enforce a more restrictive mask policy than this,” USMC officials said, “to ensure a safe workspace, to respect host nation or local jurisdiction guidelines, or to ensure mission accomplishment.”