United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will request approval to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for all U.S. military service members by mid-September or earlier if necessary, according to a memo he released.
“I want you to know that I will seek the president’s approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September, or immediately upon the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licensure, whichever comes first,” Austin wrote in the memo on Aug. 9.
Austin added that he “will not hesitate to act sooner or recommend a different course” to President Joe Biden if necessary due to the rising cases caused by the Delta variant.
Shortly after the release of the memo, Biden said in a statement that he “strongly supports” Austin’s move.
“Being vaccinated will enable our service members to stay healthy, to better protect their families, and to ensure that our force is ready to operate anywhere in the world,” Biden said.
The move came two weeks after Biden ordered all federal employees to either get the vaccine or submit to a series of health protocols, including weekly testing and travel restrictions.
The move also follows Biden’s directive that the Pentagon determine how and when it would mandate the vaccines for the military.
According to Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby, 73% of active duty personnel have received at least one dose of the vaccine while over 60% are now fully vaccinated.
“We’re working hard on what will be a policy directive to come in the coming days that will make it clear what those requirements and restrictions are and how they apply” to all members in the Pentagon workforce, Kirby said, as quoted by ABC News.
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