Roughly 47% of Marines in South Carolina who have been offered a COVID-19 vaccine through the military have declined to get a shot, federal data show.
About 2,900 Marines in the Palmetto State, including at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, as of June 2 had received a dose via the U.S. Department of Defense, according to new data provided to The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette.
But another 2,600 had declined to be inoculated, marking a 52% vaccination rate, according to Capt. Andrew Wood, a Marines Corps spokesman.
That rate reflects a challenge for the military, which is working to address vaccine hesitancy among young adults, much like state health departments.
With about 10,700 Marines in South Carolina, just 27.1% of that group had been vaccinated through the DOD as of June 2.
Another 5,200 Marines were still scheduled to be offered a vaccine, Wood wrote in a statement.
“Our population is comprised mostly of young and healthy individuals,” Wood wrote. “There are several reasons someone may not yet have received the vaccine other than declining. For example, an individual may have deferred until later to allow others to get the vaccine, they could be unavailable for a second dose in the prescribed time period, they could expect the vaccine to become mandatory and are just waiting until then, or they may be allergic to one of the compounds in the vaccine.”
Wood, though, added that “the key to addressing the pandemic is building vaccine confidence.”
More than 22,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed among the Marines nationally since early last year, according to the DOD.
Recruits with November Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, participate in daily training aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island April 21, 2020.
The Navy and Marine Corps, Wood wrote, are working to provide accurate vaccine safety and efficacy information to sailors, Marines and beneficiaries. (About 64.6% of all 150,400 Marines offered a dose through the DOD as of April 30 had received at least one shot, data show.)
The vaccines are not mandatory for Marines because the U.S. Food Drug and Administration has yet to fully approve the doses for use. The FDA has issued only emergency use authorizations for Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s shots.
DOD officials, meanwhile, are not the only ones trying to increase vaccine uptake in South Carolina.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has consistently noted that young adults are particularly uninterested in being vaccinated.
Just 4.9% of S.C. residents ages 20 to 24, for example, have received at least one dose, according to DHEC data and U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
DHEC is trying to bolster that age group’s vaccination rate via its new “Shot and a Chaser” campaign, through which young adults can snag a free beer or soda in June if they get inoculated at select S.C. breweries.
“They don’t think they need it. They don’t see (COVID-19) as a risk to them,” Dr. Edward Simmer, DHEC’s director, recently said of younger people.
Note: Selected Marine Corps Reserve members and Individual Mobilization Augmentees are included in the South Carolina-specific Marine Corps vaccine data.