WASHINGTON: The Pentagon said Monday it would make CoV-19 vaccination mandatory for all members of the U.S. military by mid-September, amid a dangerous increase in Delta variant infections.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a memo that he would ask President Joe Biden to approve the move in about five weeks, even if none of the existing vaccines received full US Food and Drug Administration approval.
But orders can come first if the Pfizer vaccine is approved before then. Officials say they expect Pfizer to receive full FDA approval by early September.
Since the covid vaccine has only received emergency approval, the US military has not yet forced troops to keep it, as it does for other vaccines.
Doing so would open the door to legal challenges, provided Biden does not grant a waiver.
If Pfizer or any other vaccine does not receive full FDA approval by mid-September, Austin said he would go ahead and get Biden’s approval.
Biden issued a statement supporting the decision.
“These vaccines are life-saving,” he said.
Vaccination will keep our service members healthy, better protect their families, and ensure that our force is ready to work anywhere in the world.
Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said the Pentagon expects millions of food items to be stored and that individual services are currently developing forced vaccination plans.
Currently, 73% of the 1.4 million active duty forces have been hit by at least one bullet, but if 1.1 million reserve troops are added, the rate remains at 56%.
This lower level has raised concerns among US officials about the possibility of the virus harming military preparations.
Austin said in the memo that before ordering vaccinations, the military would also “keep a close eye on infection rates – which are now on the rise due to the delta diversity situation – and how those rates could affect us in preparation.” “
“If I feel the need to do so, I will not hesitate to act quickly or recommend a different course to the president,” he said.
US service members are currently ordered to receive 17 vaccines, all of which are FDA-approved. Mandating the Covid 19 vaccine also created the risk of interference by some members of Congress.
But Mike Rogers, a senior Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said vaccines are important for military readiness.
“We must not allow the Cove 19 to be a hindrance to our power,” he said.
“Vaccines protect our men and women, many of whom live in tight and crowded conditions, at home or from the spread of the disease worldwide.”