Austin mandates COVID-19 vaccination for all service members

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a memo Wednesday requiring all service members to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Mandatory vaccinations are familiar to all of our Service members, and mission-critical inoculation is almost as old as the U.S. military itself,” Austin wrote. “Our administration of safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines has produced admirable results to date, and I know the Department of Defense will come together to finish the job, with urgency, professionalism, and compassion.”

For those who have not yet been vaccinated, the mandatory vaccine will be Pfizer, which was just granted full FDA approval on Monday. Austin had said earlier this month that he’d require service members to be vaccinated either upon FDA approval or by mid-September with a waiver from President Biden. 

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the secretary has made it clear he wants active-duty forces to move with some alacrity, and he wants regular updates on vaccination levels. He told reporters Wednesday that currently, 68% of active duty service members are fully vaccinated, and over 76% have received one dose. Here’s the breakdown by service branch, including members of their guard and reserve forces : 

  • Army: 40% fully vaccinated; 57% one dose
  • Marines: 53% fully vaccinated; 60% one dose
  • Navy: 73% fully vaccinated; 70% one dose
  • Air Force: 57% fully vaccinated; 64% with one dose

Although Kirby said earlier this week that the Pentagon would also set a date by which service members should be vaccinated, Austin’s memo did not mention a specific date. He instead asked the secretaries of the service departments to “impose ambitious timelines for implementation.”