The Pentagon will require every member of the military to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by September 15, according to a memo from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin published Monday.
“Based on these consultations and on additional discussions with leaders of the White House COVID Task Force, I want you to know that I will seek the President’ s approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September, or immediately upon the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licensure, whichever comes first,” Austin wrote.
Religious and medical exemptions will be made on a case-by-case basis.
The defense secretary claimed to have consulted with senior military leaders and health care professionals prior to making a final decision. Based on the advice received, he made the decision to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine in order for the nation to have a “healthy and ready force” and pleaded for military members to get vaccinated before vaccines are FDA approved.
“To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force. I strongly encourage all DoD military and civilian personnel – as well as contractor personnel – to get vaccinated now and for military Service members to not wait for the mandate,” Austin said.
Many have questioned why it has taken this long for the Defense Department to require troops to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Deseret News points out that the Defense Department has been hesitant for months to mandate the vaccine until the FDA puts its stamp approval on it, which Austin claims could happen in early September.
“By way of expectation, public reporting suggests the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine could achieve full FDA licensure early next month,” the memo suggested.
On Monday, Joe Biden praised Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s decision, saying they both share “an unshakeable commitment to making sure our troops have every tool they need to do their jobs as safely as possible,” according to The Hill.
“Being vaccinated will enable our service members to stay healthy, to better protect their families, and to ensure that our force is ready to operate anywhere in the world. We cannot let up in the fight against COVID-19, especially with the Delta variant spreading rapidly through unvaccinated populations. We are still on a wartime footing, and every American who is eligible should take immediate steps to get vaccinated right away,” Biden said.
Many military veterans have publicly voiced their support while others have been left distraught over the controversial decision.
Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Texas, a retired U.S Navy doctor, took to Twitter a day before Austin announced the mandate to encourage Americans to push back against “any violation of your freedoms!”
On the other hand, U.S. Army veteran and founder of the veterans advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America, also took to Twitter clarifying that “vaccines in the military are not new” since the Army “already requires new soldiers to get measles, mumps, diphtheria, flubicillin, rubella and smallpox.”
The Pentagon has not yet responded to the backlash against the proposed mandate which will take effect in mid-September.