President Biden asks Pentagon ‘how and when’ to mandate COVID-19 vaccine for troops

According to the White House, President Biden on Thursday asked the Defense Department to look into “how and when” it will mandate service members get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Today, the president will announce that he is directing the Department of Defense to look into how and when they will add COVID-19 vaccination to the list of required vaccinations for members of the military,” the White House said in a fact sheet released ahead of the president’s speech Thursday afternoon, about steps he’s taking to encourage more vaccinations. “This is particularly important because our troops serve in places throughout the world—many where vaccination rates are low and disease is prevalent,” it added.

The Defense Department already requires service members to get more than a dozen vaccines, including shots for measles, mumps, diphtheria, hepatitis, smallpox and the flu. However, they have not yet decided on mandating the COVID-19 vaccine, and will not do so until full FDA approval.

“If these vaccines are approved by the FDA, then the secretary will certainly talk to the services and health care professionals here at the department to determine what the best options are going forward, which could include making them mandatory,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said earlier this month.

Biden announced that federal employees will be required to have proof of vaccination or weekly or twice weekly COVID-19 testing, even giving $100 as incentive to get the vaccine. Among higher numbers in delta variant cases, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that fully vaccinated individuals go back to wearing masks indoors. 

In line with that, the Pentagon on Wednesday announced it is reimposing its mask mandate for vaccinated personnel “in areas of substantial or high transmissions.” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said earlier this month, that 70% of active-duty troops have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. But that is far behind the Pentagon’s original goal, when officials suggested earlier this year that the whole force could be vaccinated by mid-July (Military News).

Twenty-eight service members have died from COVID-19, according to the latest Pentagon data, including two sailors who died in the past week. The Navy has not disclosed those sailors’ vaccination status.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) has already introduced a bill to prohibit mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for troops and tweeted earlier this month that he had been “contacted by members of our voluntary military who say they will quit if the COVID vaccine is mandated.”

In response, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), a moderate Republican and member of the Air National Guard, tweeted that there was “so much wrong with [Massie’s] tweet even beyond how naive it is.” “1) sorry, but you can’t quit the military. 2) there are about 3890 mandatory vaccines in the military already, 3) you knew this when you joined. 4) THE VACCINE WORKS,” Kinzinger added. “Good luck with your pandering though.”



Leave a Reply