Members of the U.S. military should receive the Covid-19 vaccine beginning Sept. 15, according to a plan announced by the Department of Defense (DoD) on Monday and endorsed by Joe Biden.
That timeline could be delayed if the vaccine receives final regulatory approval from the US, beyond its current emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or if infection rates continue to rise. .
“To defend this nation, we need a healthy and ready force. I strongly encourage all Defense Department military and civilian personnel, as well as contractor personnel, to get vaccinated now and that military service members do not wait for the mandate, ”said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
He added: “All FDA-cleared Covid-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective. They will protect you and your family. They will protect your unit, your boat and your co-workers. And they will ensure that we remain the most deadly and most prepared force in the world. “
Austin’s plan allows time for the FDA to give final approval to the Pfizer vaccine, which is expected early next month.
The president said, “I strongly support Secretary Austin’s message to force today on the defense department’s plan to add the Covid-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccines for our service members by mid-September at the latest.”
Biden said the country is still in a state of war and that “being vaccinated will allow our service members to stay healthy, better protect their families and ensure our force is ready to operate anywhere in the world.”
Austin’s memo to the military was issued Monday as the Biden administration carried out a broader campaign to increase vaccines in the federal workforce.
The next term reflects similar decisions by governments and companies around the world.
Secretary Austin and I share an unwavering commitment to making sure our troops have all the tools they need to do their jobs in the safest way possible. These vaccines will save lives. Period. Are you sure. They are effective, ”Biden said.
He added: “I am proud that our military men and women continue to help lead the charge in the fight against this pandemic, as they do so often, setting the example of keeping their fellow Americans safe.”
Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued a memorandum of support saying “Army medical professionals recommended this as a necessary step.”
He continued: “Vaccines are the best tools to protect ourselves from Covid-19. If you have had the vaccine, thank you. If you haven’t already … do so to protect yourself and those around you. “
Austin said in his memo that the military services will have the next few weeks to prepare, determine how many vaccines they need, and how this mandate will be implemented.
The extra time, however, is also a nod to the bitter political divide over the vaccine.
The decision will add the Covid-19 vaccine to a list of other vaccines that service members should already receive. Depending on their location in the world, service members can receive up to 17 different vaccines.
The Austin memo also said that in the meantime, the Pentagon will comply with Biden’s order for additional restrictions on any federal personnel who have not been vaccinated. Those restrictions will include the use of masks, social distancing and travel limits.
According to the Pentagon, more than 1 million soldiers are fully vaccinated and another 237,000 have been shot, and the number is increasing. But the military services vary widely in their vaccination rates.
The navy said more than 74% of all active duty and reserve sailors have been vaccinated with at least one vaccine. Meanwhile, the air force said more than 65% of its active duty and 60% of its reserve forces are at least partially vaccinated, and the army’s number, by far the largest service, appears to be closer to 50. %.