US Military Will Mandate The COVID-19 Vaccine For All Active Duty Personnel
In a move that was inevitable, the US military will mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for all troops by the middle of September.
The Defense Department will require U.S. troops to get COVID-19 vaccines by mid-September or as soon as the Food and Drug Administration approves it — “whichever comes first,” according to a memo released Monday by the Pentagon.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in the memo to troops that he would not “hesitate to act sooner or recommend a different course to the President if I feel the need to do so” should the need arise with increasing cases attributed to the Delta variant.
“I will seek the President’s approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September, or immediately upon [approval by the Food and Drug Administration,] whichever comes first,” he added.
News of the memo was first reported by The Associated Press.
Austin said the department will spend the next several weeks “preparing for the transition.”
“I have every confidence that Service leadership and your commanders will implement this new vaccination program with professionalism, skill, and compassion. We will have more to say about this as implementation plans are fully developed,” he wrote.
The decision comes a week after President Joe Biden told defense officials to develop a plan requiring troops to get vaccinated — part of his broader campaign to require vaccinations among the federal workforce.
Since the vaccines were authorized by the FDA under emergency use, they have been voluntary for all service members. Military officials have maintained since last November — before the vaccines had even been approved under an emergency use authorization — that they would remain voluntary for personnel until the FDA issued formal approval.
But that was seven months before the highly contagious Delta variant began sweeping across the country, increasing case numbers and upping the likelihood that other, possibly more virulent, mutations could occur, according to Johns Hopkins University medical experts.
After months of declining coronavirus infections in U.S. troops — 6,006 cases in May and 6,574 cases in June, according to the DoD — cases soared to more than 11,200 in July.
Shortly after Austin’s memo was released Monday, Biden issued a statement praising the decision, saying the country is on a “wartime footing” against the virus.
“We cannot let up in the fight against COVID-19, especially with the Delta variant spreading rapidly through unvaccinated populations,” Biden said.
Vaccine holdouts have expressed a number of reasons why they have yet to get the shots.
There is going to be pushback and lawsuits. That the military will mandate the COVID-19 vaccine brings comparisons with the Anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program that had starts, stops, and legal challenges for over a decade from 1998 to 2010, resulting in dozens of administrative actions and a federal judge ruling that the military could not force the vaccine onto troops.
I remember that particular ball of fun well since I was on my third of the five shots in the series of injections when they stopped the program, then started it up again, only to have it halted again. This went on for several years. Already over halfway there, and being on a deployment rotation at the time, I elected to continue and finished the series under informed consent. Others stopped, or were able to never start at all. This is brought up because there is definitely going to be court cases about this and military deadlines are going to be set, leaving the distinct possibility that with a three week gap between COVID-19 vaccine shots some folks are going to get caught up once again when the courts get involved.