The Pentagon will require members of the US military to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by mid-September, according to a memo Monday.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in the missive, which was expected to be sent to troops Monday, that the vaccine requirement will be implemented by Sept. 15 at the latest.
The edict affects active-duty members, CNN said.
“I will seek the president’s approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September, or immediately upon [full approval of the vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration], whichever comes first,” Austin wrote.
The memo said the military branches will have the next few weeks to prepare, determine how many vaccines are needed, and how they will go about implementing the mandate.
“We will also be keeping a close eye on infection rates — which are on the rise now due to the Delta variant — and the impact these rates might have on our readiness. I will not hesitate to act sooner or recommend a different course to the President if l feel the need to do so,” Austin said in the memo.
President Biden later said in a statement that he “strongly” supported the Pentagon’s decision.
More than 1 million troops are fully vaccinated, and another 237,000 have received one shot of the available two-dose regimes, according to the Pentagon.
But the military services’ vaccination rates vary.
The Navy said more than 74 percent of its active-duty and reserve sailors have received at least one shot, while the Air Force has reported more than 65 percent of its active-duty members are at least partially vaccinated.
The Army, meanwhile, appears to be closer to 50 percent partly immunized, according to data from several bases and units around the country, based on conversations with military officials and service members, CNN reported.
The FDA is expected to give final approval next month for the Pfizer vaccine, which is currently being administered under an emergency use authorization.
With the red tape removed, the Pentagon would not have to seek a waiver from Biden to make the shots mandatory.
The decision to require vaccines comes more than a week after the commander-in-chief told defense officials to develop a plan requiring troops to get shots.
“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. These vaccines will save lives. Period,” Biden said in his statement Monday.
“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,” he continued.
With Post wires