COVID-19 vaccine will be mandatory for troops, Pentagon says

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued a memo Monday saying he will ask the president to approve making COVID-19 vaccines a requirement by mid-September. “I have every confidence that Service leadership and your commanders will implement this new vaccination program with professionalism, skill, and compassion,” Austin said in the memo. 

Austin said he will seek the president’s approval to make the vaccine mandatory either by mid-September or immediately upon the FDA’s formal authorization, whichever comes first. Vaccines in the military are voluntary when under emergency use authorization by the FDA. The president has the authority to waive the rule and make the vaccine a requirement for personnel.  

In a statement, President Biden said he “strongly” supported Austin’s decision. 

“I am proud that our military women and men will continue to help lead the charge in the fight against this pandemic, as they so often do, by setting the example of keeping their fellow Americans safe,” Mr. Biden said. 

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin holds a press conference on July 21, 2021, at the Pentagon. OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

Mr. Biden in July asked Austin to look into when and how to make the vaccine mandatory. Though FDA approval of Pfizer’s vaccine may be inching closer in the next few weeks, the danger posed by the highly contagious Delta variant has prompted action.

The Department of Defense in a statement following Mr. Biden’s speech last month said Austin would consult with medical professionals as well as the Joint Chiefs of Staff to determine how when to make recommendations to the president to require the COVID-19 vaccines. The Department has since the beginning of the Biden administration urged personnel to receive a vaccine and continues to do so.

“Vaccines remain the best and most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID, including the Delta variant,” Pentagon Deputy Spokesperson Jamal Brown said in a statement.

As of Monday, at least 74% of active duty personnel are partially vaccinated and 65% are fully vaccinated.

This is a breaking story. It will be updated.