The United States military will start requiring its staff to get vaccinated against the coronavirus after the Pentagon announced a deadline of September 15 in a memo by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
The mandate affects all Department of Defense employees and could have an earlier deadline depending on the developments of vaccine approval or the situation with COVID-19. In the memo that was given to troops on Monday, Austin said he was seeking the approval of United States President Joe Biden's administration to make vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September or upon approval of the FDA, whichever comes first.
Mandatory Vaccination for Military Personnel
The defense secretary said he would take action and discuss the matter with the president if he felt the need to do so to protect the country by having a healthy and ready force. Many expect the FDA to give its approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in early September. If the situation does not occur, Austin could seek a presidential waiver to mandate troops to get inoculated, Fox News reported.
Regardless of the requirement, Austin urged all staff to get vaccinated against the coronavirus infection. He said that employees should not wait for the mandate to be in effect before getting their vaccine shots.
In a statement on Monday afternoon, Biden supported Austin's call for the vaccination of the military and the mandate to have troops inoculated no later than mid-September. The Democrat said he and Austin wanted to give troops everything they needed to fight as safely as possible.
The decision is the latest attempt of the Biden administration to curb the spread of the Delta variant that is dominating the infections nationwide. The Democratic leader has previously expressed his discontent with the vaccination rate in the United States. He urged the private sector and state and local governments to ramp up their inoculation programs.
Spread of the Delta Variant
Authorities reported that about 64% of active-duty service members, which number to about 1.3 million, are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. The military considers the rate extremely low as it is difficult to deploy troops who have not yet taken their shots to countries with high rates of infections, the New York Times reported.
Other nations worldwide have also implemented similar programs as the struggle against the coronavirus' Delta variant continues. The deadly strain is also much more threatening among military personnel who live and work closely together in barracks and on ships, which increases the risk of spreading the infection.
Austin said that if the virus continued to threaten the military's readiness and capability to protect the United States, he would not hesitate to act sooner. Biden said that the U.S. was still on a wartime footing and noted that getting the COVID-19 vaccines will allow service members to stay healthy, better protect their families, and ensure they are ready to operate anywhere in the world.
Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also followed Austin's memo by saying that the military's medical professionals also encouraged the decision, the Associated Press reported.