COVID vaccines would be required for military under new plan

WASHINGTON (AP), The Pentagon announced Monday that all members of the U.S. Military would have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 starting Sept. 15. This was in line with President Joe Biden's support.If the vaccine is approved by FDA or infection rates rise, then this deadline could be extended.I will ask the president to approve the vaccinations as mandatory no later then mid-September or upon licensure by Food and Drug Administration.He said that if there are any rising infection rates, which could affect military readiness and force us to take action sooner, or suggest a different course of action to the President, he will do so. We need a strong and healthy force to defend our Nation.Austin's plan allows for FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine in time. This is expected to happen early next month. To make shots mandatory, Austin would require a waiver from Biden. Biden supports this.Monday's statement by Biden stated that he supports Austin's message to the Force today regarding the Department of Defenses plans to add the COVID-19 vaccination to the list of mandatory vaccines for service members no later than mid September.Biden stated that the country is still on wartime ground and that being vaccinated will allow our service members and their families to remain healthy and protect them, as well as ensure our force is available to work anywhere in the world.Austin sent Monday's memo to police.Biden had told officials a week earlier that he would create a plan for troops to receive shots as part of an overall campaign to increase the number of federal workers vaccinated. This decision is similar to others taken by companies and governments around the globe as countries struggle with the highly contagious Delta variant, which has seen new U.S. deaths, hospitalizations, and cases rise to levels not seen since last winter's peaks.Continue the storyAustin stated in his memo that the military services will have the next few week to prepare and determine how many vaccines are needed. He also explained how the mandate will be implemented. However, the extra time is also a nod towards the bitter political divisiveness surrounding the vaccine and to the fact that making it mandatory could lead to opposition from vaccine supporters across the country, including Congress, the federal governments, and even the American people.The risk of rapid spreading is increased when troops live and work together in close quarters, such as on ships and barracks. A large-scale outbreak of the virus could impact America's ability and resources to defend itself against any national security crisis.This decision will allow COVID-19 to be added to the list of inoculations service members must get. Service members may receive up to 17 vaccines depending on where they are located.Austin's memo stated that the Pentagon would comply with Biden’s order for additional restrictions to federal employees who have not been immunized. These restrictions include travel limits, social distancing, and wearing masks.The Pentagon claims that more than 1,000,000 troops have been fully vaccinated, while 237,000 others have only received one shot. However, the vaccination rates of military services can vary greatly.According to the Navy, more than 74% have received at least one shot. According to the Air Force, more than 65% of active duty personnel and 60% of reserve troops are at least partially vaccinated. The Army, which is the largest service, appears to be closer towards 50%.According to military officials, the rate of vaccinations is increasing across the force. Some units like sailors who deploy on warships see almost 100% of their members receive shots. However, the numbers drop dramatically among the National Guard and Reserve who are more difficult to track.Some service members who aren't vaccinated have said they would get the shot if it was required. Others, however, disagree. According to military officials, refusing to get the vaccine could be considered a refusal to comply with an order and could result in a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.For example, Army guidance includes counseling soldiers to make sure they understand the importance of the vaccine as well as the dangers it poses. According to the Army, a commander can take appropriate discipline if a soldier fails to follow a lawful order for mandatory vaccinations and doesn't have an approved exemption.According to military service officials, they do not have data about the number of troops who refused other mandated vaccines such as anthrax or chicken pox. They were unable to give details about the punishments that service members received for refusing vaccines.Officials stated that they do not believe there are many troops refusing to take other mandated vaccines. The discipline could also vary.Service members may also be granted an exemption from vaccines, whether they are temporary or permanent. This can be done for various reasons, including religious or health concerns. The regulations governing the other mandatory vaccines state, for instance, that anyone suffering from a severe adverse reaction can be exempted and pregnant women or people with other medical conditions can delay a shot.Some argue that people who have had the virus before and have antibodies to it are immune, and should not be given the shot. These types of claims are not supported by the military so it is unclear how they will be handled.Defense officials claim that some military leaders support making mandatory the vaccination, believing it will keep the force healthy. In order to prevent infection, military commanders have struggled to distinguish vaccinated from unvaccinated soldiers during the early parts of basic training across all services. For some, a mandate could simplify housing and training.According to Navy officials, there has been one COVID-19-related hospitalization in the last week among fully vaccinated sailors and Marines. The Navy, however, stated that there has been only one case of COVID-19 hospitalization in a similar group of unvaccinated sailors or Marines.Similar data were not provided by the other military services.