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President Biden Moves the Military Towards Mandatory Vaccinations

On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced that the military would begin taking steps to make the COVID-19 vaccine obligatory for uniformed service members. In remarks at the White House, Biden refrained from immediately enforcing a vaccine mandate. He has, however, requested that the Defense Department investigate how and when the military would add COVID-19 immunizations to the list of other vaccinations that service personnel must obtain.

Because troops frequently deploy in areas where vaccination rates are low, and COVID is rampant, Biden believes that making the immunizations mandatory is critical. In addition, he said, “Men and women in uniform, who protect this country against grave threats, should be protected as much as possible from getting COVID-19.”

COVID vaccinations are now accessible for use in an emergency. However, the military cannot make immunizations mandatory for service personnel until the Food and Drug Administration gives them complete approval. “I know he’s open to it,” Biden responded when asked if Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is open to forcing troop vaccinations before the vaccine is entirely certified by the FDA.Biden stated that he would not pressure health agencies to decide on the vaccine’s approval but that he believes they will do so in the early fall. Vaccination rates in the military are slowing, as they are in other parts of the country. For example, Austin stated in mid-July that 70% of active-duty personnel had received at least one vaccine shot, and 62 percent had been fully vaccinated.

More than 1 million military members are fully vaccinated, according to the Pentagon’s COVID website, with another 233,000 partially vaccinated. That translates to at least 60% of the 2.1 million-strong military force, including active, Guard, and Reserve forces, being at least partially vaccinated. However, not all Guard and reserve troops may be included in those figures. Along with other steps he announced, Biden’s mandate aims to encourage and facilitate vaccination among civilians.

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