The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) will require all military service members to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 15, according to an internal memo reported Monday.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced in the memo that he is actively seeking President Joe Biden’s approval for the vaccine mandate, according to The Associated Press. Biden had instructed Austin to investigate “how and when” to implement a vaccine mandate for service members in late July.
“I will seek the president’s approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September,” Austin wrote in the memo, adding that he may move up the date if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fully approves the vaccine before then. “I will not hesitate to act sooner or recommend a different course to the President if I feel the need to do so.” (RELATED: Inside The High-Profile Battle Over Critical Race Theory In The US Military)
Biden released a statement supporting the vaccine mandate later Monday.
Secretary Austin and I share an unshakable commitment to making sure our troops have every tool they need to do their jobs as safely as possible,” Biden wrote. “These vaccines will save lives. Period. They are safe. They are effective.”
WASHINGTON (AP) — Pentagon to require members of US military to get COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 15, according to memo obtained by AP.
— Jonathan Lemire (@JonLemire) August 9, 2021
The action will add the COVID-19 vaccine to the existing list of vaccines that service members are already required to have upon joining the military.
To date, at least 50 percent of members in each military branch are at least partially vaccinated, with the Army having the lowest rate and the Navy having the highest at 74 percent, according to the AP.
The Biden administration has already imposed a vaccine mandate for foreigners seeking entry into the U.S., but the Pentagon order will be the first mandate to apply to American citizens.
Biden and other administration officials have repeatedly stated that a blanket federal vaccine mandate or passport system for all Americans is not on the table. The administration has, however, encouraged state and local governments and the private sector to impose their own mandates and passport systems.