Pentagon Orders Mandatory Coronavirus Vaccination for Military

NORTH MIAMI, FLORIDA - MARCH 10: U.S. Army soldiers from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, prepare Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate people at the Miami Dade College North Campus on March 10, 2021 in North Miami, Florida. The soldiers deployed to assist the Federal Emergency Management …
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday issued a memorandum directing the military services to begin full vaccination of all service members following FDA approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Monday.

“Mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 will only use COVID-19 vaccines that receive full licensure from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in accordance with FDA-approved labeling and guidance,” said a Pentagon statement about the order.

The order does not apply to service members who were already fully vaccinated with vaccines under emergency use authorization, or those who are actively participating in COVID-19 clinical trials. It said service members with previous coronavirus infections “are not considered fully vaccinated.”

vaccine

GINOWAN, JAPAN – APRIL 28: A member of the United States military receives the Moderna coronavirus vaccine at Camp Foster on April 28, 2021 in Ginowan, Japan. A United States military vaccination program aiming to inoculate all service personnel and their families against Covid-19 coronavirus is under way on Japans southernmost island of Okinawa, home to around 30,000 US troops and one of the largest US Marine contingents outside of mainland USA. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

Austin ordered the services to “impose ambitious timelines for implementation” and to “report regularly on vaccination completion.”

“To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force. After careful consultation with medical experts and military leadership, and with the support of the President, I have determined that mandatory vaccination against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is necessary to protect the Force and defend the American people,” Austin’s memo read.

“The Secretaries of the Military Departments should impose ambitious timelines for implementation. Military Departments will report regularly on vaccination completion using established systems for other mandatory vaccine reporting,” he said.

“Our vaccination of the Force will save lives. Thank you for your focus on this critical mission,” he added.

FILE - Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin listens to a question as he speaks during a media briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, in this Friday, Feb. 19, 2021, file photo. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met Sunday, April 11, 2021, in Tel Aviv with his Israeli counterpart and reinforced American support. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

FILE – Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin listens to a question as he speaks during a media briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, in this Friday, Feb. 19, 2021, file photo. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met Sunday, April 11, 2021, in Tel Aviv with his Israeli counterpart and reinforced American support. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said service members who object can ask for exemptions on religious or medical grounds, but said “if it’s an objection outside those two frameworks, the individual will be offered a chance to sit down with a physician and have that physician communicate to them the risks that they’re taking by continuing to not want to take the vaccine.’

“They will also be offered a chance to sit down with their chain of command and their leadership to talk about the risks that their objection will impose on the unit and on the force and on their teammates,” he said.

“The commanders have a wide range of tools available to them to help their teammates make the right decision for themselves, for their families, and for their units. And… the secretary expects that the commanders will use those tools short of having to use the [Uniform Code of Military Justice],” he said.

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 14: A member of the National Guard wears a protective vest reading Military Police in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on January 14, 2021 in Washington, DC. Security has been increased throughout Washington following the breach of the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday, and leading up to the Presidential inauguration. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)

He added, “It’s a lawful order, and it’s our expectation that troops will obey lawful orders. And we also expect that commanders will have plenty of other tools available to them to get their vaccination rates up, and to get these individuals to make the right decisions short of having to use disciplinary action.”

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