Pentagon orders COVID-19 vaccinations for all service members begin immediately

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The Pentagon is requiring all service members to get vaccinated against coronavirus, effective immediately.

The decision, announced in a memo from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, bumps up an earlier plan, which had called for people to get vaccinated by Sept. 15. The announcement of the previous deadline noted that the date could be moved up if a vaccine were to get FDA approval, and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine received that approval earlier this week.

“To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force,” Austin said in a memo. “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 directed the secretaries of the various military departments to have all Armed Forces members on active duty and in the ready reserves, including the National Guard, vaccinated if they have not already received their shots.

While any of the vaccines that the FDA has permitted under Emergency Use Authorizations are acceptable, the Pentagon will only require people to get vaccinated using an FDA-approved vaccine. So far, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the only one to get full FDA approval.

The memo encouraged the military secretaries to “impose ambitious timelines” to complete the vaccination process.

President Biden endorsed the idea of a vaccine mandate in a statement issued earlier this month following Austin’s initial mandate announcement.

“I strongly support Secretary Austin’s message to the Force today on the Department of Defense’s plan to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccinations for our service members not later than mid-September,” Biden said. “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.”

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