The Department of Defense will require all U.S. military members to get vaccinated against Covid-19 by no later than mid-September, the Pentagon said Monday, a major step as President Joe Biden aims to curb coronavirus infections by either mandating or strongly encouraging millions of federal workers to get immunized.
The DOD will ask Biden to make the coronavirus vaccines mandatory for troops by the middle of next month, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin wrote in a Monday memo to Department of Defense employees, which was sent to Forbes.
Austin will move up his timeline if the Food and Drug Administration grants full approval to Pfizer’s vaccine — which currently has an emergency use authorization — before then.
Austin says he “will not hesitate to act sooner” if coronavirus infections worsen.
The news was first reported by the Associated Press.
“To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force. I strongly encourage all DoD military and civilian personnel – as well as contractor personnel – to get vaccinated now and for military Service members to not wait for the mandate,” Austin said.
The Pentagon struggled with a slow vaccination campaign earlier this year, but the military’s partial vaccination rate reached 70% last month, Austin told reporters two weeks ago. Some officials are pushing for more of the country’s roughly 1.4 million uniformed military personnel to get vaccinated, pointing to the virus’ more contagious new delta variant and a risk of local outbreaks in parts of the world where the U.S. military operates. Biden directed the Pentagon to look into a vaccine mandate late last month, possibly adding the coronavirus vaccines to a list of up to 17 immunizations troops are already required to get.
Biden is requiring members of the federal government’s civilian workforce — which numbers 2.1 million — to either get vaccinated against the coronavirus or face a litany of public health restrictions, including frequent testing and mandatory social distancing at work.
Biden Unveils Vaccine-Or-Test Mandate For All Federal Workers — Including Military (Forbes)