Biden asks Pentagon to examine ‘how and when’ to mandate COVID-19 vaccine for troops
President Biden on Thursday will ask the Defense Department to look into “how and when” it will mandate service members get the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the White House.
“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 a speech Biden will give 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.
But it has so far not mandated the COVID-19 vaccine while it remains under the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) emergency use authorization; instead, the department has been strongly encouraging troops to take the vaccine and has said that mandating it is an option after it receives 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.
But amid a surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly contagious delta variant and low vaccination rates in some parts of the country, the administration has been searching for new ways to encourage vaccinations.
Biden’s announcement on the Defense Department will come in the same speech he is announcing that federal employees will be required to attest to being fully vaccinated or else face weekly or twice weekly COVID-19 testing.
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