Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a memo today directing all military service secretaries to immediately begin full vaccinations of all U.S. troops against COVID-19.
The order follows the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.
“Mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 will only use COVID-19 vaccines that receive full licensure from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in accordance with FDA-approved labeling and guidance,” according to the Defense Department.
Servicemembers who have already become voluntarily immunized with vaccines released under the FDA’s emergency authorization policy will be considered fully vaccinated.
“Service members who are actively participating in COVID-19 clinical trials are exempted from mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 until the trial is complete in order to avoid invalidating such clinical trial results,” DOD said.
Austin has also directed the military to “impose ambitious timelines” for fully vaccinating all U.S. troops, DOD said.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said today approximately 68% of the active-duty force has been fully vaccinated, while 76% have had at least one dose.
Kirby said troops can apply for exemptions on religious our medical grounds. Any troops refusing the vaccine for other reasons will have to answer to their chain of command after being offered counseling by a physician.
“This is a lawful order,” he said. “It hasn't been a problem in the past with other vaccines. . . . It's our expectation that troops will obey lawful orders.”