Pentagon will seek to mandate Covid vaccine for 1.4 million troops

The secretary warned that if infections continue to rise, I will not hesitate recommending a different course of action to the President. This move follows Biden's order that the Pentagon study when and how it could require the shot for military personnel. Last month, the president ordered federal workers to get the vaccine. According to a source familiar with the talks and a senior administration official, DoD officials have called key lawmakers several times in recent days to get their support. One person said that DoD is particularly concerned about servicemen of color who might be reluctant to get the vaccine. The pandemic was more severe in black and Hispanic communities. However, these areas had lower vaccination rates than those living in white areas, partly because of deep distrust in health authorities. John Kirby, spokesperson for the Pentagon, said that while discussions had been held with lawmakers, he did not deny the fact that they took place. However, he stated that there was no effort by the secretary or department to solicit support from Congressmen in order to mandate vaccination efforts. More than 30 percent of active-duty soldiers haven't been vaccinated. Biden stated Monday that he strongly supported Secretary Austin's message to Force to add COVID-19 to the list required vaccines for service members no later than mid September. Around 73 percent of active-duty personnel have been vaccinated. However, for those who refuse to comply with the order, some discipline will be likely. Kirby said to reporters Monday at the Pentagon that he didn't know what it might be. Austin is confident that the service commanders and leaders will implement the new vaccine program with professionalism and skill and with compassion. Rep. Adam Smith (D. Wash.), Chair of the House Armed Services Committee issued a statement in support of the push to vaccinate. He stated that some might try to criticize Secretary's decision using anti-vax arguments not supported by science or facts to politicize the conversation. These desperate attention seekers should be ignored. Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican ranking member of this committee, issued his own statement. He stated that COVID-19 must not be a hindrance to our force. He also said that the number of troops who have been vaccinated so far is encouraging news. I hope it reaches 100% soon. The caution shown by the Biden administration in handling the mandate could be due to the legal problems that the Pentagon had to overcome when it issued the anthrax vaccine for troops back in 1990s, before it was FDA approved. Many troops refused to receive the vaccine at the time. Many filed lawsuits claiming that the Pentagon couldn't require a vaccine not fully licensed. In one instance, the department was forced to end the program. The vaccine was eventually approved by the FDA and the Pentagon reinstated the requirement for troops to be stationed in high-risk areas. All military recruits must have a variety of vaccines including measles and mumps, yellow fever, polio, Tetanus, and polio. Austins memo is a reflection of similar decisions made by governments and companies worldwide as the world struggles to contain the spread of highly contagious Delta variant. This virus has caused new cases in the United States, increased hospitalizations, and death rates that have not been seen since the winter. The White House, Pentagon Reservation, and State Department all responded by imposing indoor mask mandates on all persons, regardless of their vaccination status. The Navy led the service in vaccination rates as of July with 72 percent having received both shots. The Army is close behind, with 62 per cent of soldiers having been vaccinated. Meanwhile, 60 percent of Air Force and Space Force active duty personnel have been fully vaccinated. This number drops to 56 percent after guard and reserve troops are added. Only 21% of reserve Marines have had their shots, and 59 percent are active-duty Marines are currently fully vaccinated. This report was contributed by Erin Banco and Paul McLeary.