U.S. military personnel are being required to get the COVID-19 vaccine immediately after the FDA issued its full approval of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine earlier this week.
“To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said in a memo earlier today. “After careful consultation with medical experts and military leadership, and with the support of the President, I have determined that mandatory vaccination against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is necessary to protect the Force and defend the American people.”
Today, Austin issued a memorandum for Mandatory Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination of Department of Defense Service Members.
The memo directs the Secretaries of the Military Departments to immediately begin full vaccination of all members of the Armed Forces under DoD authority on active duty or in the Ready Reserve, including the National Guard, who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 will only use COVID-19 vaccines that receive full licensure from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in accordance with FDA-approved labeling and guidance. Service members voluntarily immunized with a COVID-19 vaccine under FDA Emergency Use Authorization or World Health Organization Emergency Use Listing in accordance with applicable dose requirements prior to, or after, the establishment of this policy are considered fully vaccinated. Service members who are actively participating in COVID-19 clinical trials are exempted from mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 until the trial is complete in order to avoid invalidating such clinical trial results.
The Secretaries of the Military Departments were also directed to impose ambitious timelines for implementation and to report regularly on vaccination completion using established systems for other mandatory vaccine reporting.
“Military Departments will report regularly on vaccination completion using established systems for other mandatory vaccine reporting,” Austin said in the memo.