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Military vaccination: The Pentagon requires all troops to be provided with COVID vaccine by September 15

Washington – According to a memo obtained by the Associated Press, the Pentagon will require members of the US military to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by September 15. If the vaccine is finally approved by the FDA or the infection rate continues to rise, the deadline may be postponed.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a memorandum to the military: “I will seek the President’s approval for mandatory vaccination before mid-September, or immediately after obtaining permission from the Food and Drug Administration,” whichever comes first . Prepare for the requirements. “If I feel it is necessary, I will not hesitate to act as soon as possible or recommend a different route to the president.”

The memo is expected to be released on Monday.

Austin’s decision came more than a week after President Joe Biden told defense officials to develop a plan to require the military to be vaccinated as part of a broader campaign to increase vaccinations for federal workers. It reflects similar decisions by governments and companies around the world, as countries are struggling with the highly contagious delta variant, which has caused the number of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the United States to surge to the highest since last winter. The highest level.

Austin said in the memo that the military will prepare in the next few weeks to determine how many vaccines they need and how to perform this task. However, the extra time is also a recognition of the fierce political disagreement on vaccines, and the realization that compulsory vaccination may trigger opposition from vaccine opponents across the state and the federal government, Congress, and the American public.

It also provides time for the FDA’s final approval of Pfizer’s vaccine, which is expected to be completed early next month. If there is no formal approval, Austin needs Biden’s waiver to force the shooting.

The troops often live and work closely in barracks and on ships, increasing the risk of rapid spread. Any large-scale outbreak of the virus in the military may affect the ability of the United States to defend itself in any national security crisis.

The decision will add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of other vaccines that service personnel already need to get. Depending on their locations around the world, service members can obtain up to 17 different vaccines.

The Austin memo also stated that at the same time, the Pentagon will comply with Biden’s order to impose additional restrictions on any federal personnel who have not been vaccinated. These restrictions will include wearing masks, social distancing and travel restrictions.

According to the Pentagon, more than 1 million soldiers were vaccinated, and another 237,000 were vaccinated once. But the vaccination rate of the military varies greatly.

The Navy stated that more than 74% of active and reserve sailors received at least one shot of the vaccine. At the same time, the Air Force stated that more than 65% of its active forces and 60% of its reserve forces are at least partially vaccinated, while the Army — the largest service by far — appears to be close to 50%.

Military officials stated that the rate of vaccination of the entire force has been accelerating, and some troops—such as sailors deployed on warships—have been vaccinated. But the total number has dropped sharply, including the National Guard and the Reserve, making them more difficult to track.

Some unvaccinated service staff advised them to get vaccinated when needed, but others categorically opposed it. Military officials stated that once vaccination is mandatory, refusal to vaccination may constitute disobedience and may be punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

For example, Army guidance includes counseling soldiers to ensure they understand the use of vaccines and the threats posed by diseases. The Army also pointed out that if a soldier “does not comply with the legal order to receive mandatory vaccines and does not receive an approved exemption, the commander may take appropriate disciplinary action.”

Military officials said they did not collect data on the number of soldiers who refused to receive other mandatory vaccines (such as anthrax, hepatitis, chickenpox or flu vaccines) in the past ten years or more. They were unable to provide any detailed information on the penalties imposed by service personnel for refusal.

Officials said they believed that the number of troops rejecting other mandatory vaccines was small. Subjects may vary.

In addition, service personnel can seek exemptions for any vaccine for a variety of reasons, including health issues or religious beliefs-whether temporary or permanent. For example, regulations concerning other mandatory vaccines say that anyone who has a serious adverse reaction to the vaccine can be exempted, and those who are pregnant or have other conditions can postpone vaccination.

Some people believe that those who have been infected with the virus and have antibodies are immune and therefore should not be vaccinated. It is not clear how the military will respond to these types of assertions.

According to defense officials, some senior military leaders have expressed support for mandatory vaccination, believing that it will help keep troops healthy. To prevent infection, military commanders are also working to separate vaccinated recruits from unvaccinated recruits in the early stages of basic training in various services. Therefore, for some people, authorization can make training and housing less complicated.

Navy officials said this week that of the fully vaccinated sailors and Marines, only one case of COVID-19 was hospitalized. In contrast, the Navy stated that “in a similar-sized unvaccinated sailor and Marine Corps,” more than 123 people were hospitalized. It said that less than 3% of immunization forces tested positive for COVID-19.

Other military departments did not provide similar data.

Copyright © 2021 Associated Press. all rights reserved.

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