The Pentagon announced a new plan Monday that would require members of the U.S. military to have the COVID-19 vaccine beginning Sept. 15. The plan has been endorsed by President Joe Biden.
The deadline to receive the vaccine, which has yet to receive final FDA approval, could be pushed up if it does receive final approval and rates across the country continue to rise.
Defense Secretary Austin Lloyd send the memo to all Defense Department employees.
“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 Agency (FDA) licensure, whichever comes first,” Austin wrote in the memo.
As the highly transmissible delta variant cases continue to increase, Austin said, “I will not hesitate to act sooner or recommend a different course to the President if I feel the need to do so.”
President Biden released a statement after Austin released the memo, reading, “I strongly support Secretary Austin’s message to the Force today on the Department of Defense’s plan to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccinations for our service members not later than mid-September. Secretary Austin and I share an unshakable commitment to making sure our troops have every tool they need to do their jobs as safely as possible. These vaccines will save lives. Period. They are safe. They are effective.”
Since the COVID vaccines are only allowed for emergency use, President Biden would have to grant a waiver to allow the Pentagon to mandate vaccines.
At least 70% of all active-duty service members have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Pentagon’s statistics.