Under the new plan, COVID vaccines will be required for military personnel

Under a plan that President Joe Biden endorsed and announced Monday by the Pentagon, members of the U.S. Military would have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 starting Sept. 15.

Under the new plan, COVID vaccines will be required for military personnel

Under a plan that President Joe Biden endorsed and announced Monday by the Pentagon, members of the U.S. Military would have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 starting Sept. 15.

TheEditor
TheEditor
09 August 2021 Monday 16:19
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Under the new plan, COVID vaccines will be required for military personnel

If the vaccine is approved by FDA or infection rates rise, then this deadline could be extended.

In a memo to troops, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin states that "I will seek approval from the president to make vaccines mandatory no earlier than mid-September or immediately upon" licensure through the Food and Drug Administration. He warns them to prepare for it.

He said that if the infection rate rises and affects military readiness, "I won't hesitate to take action sooner or suggest a different course of action to the President if I feel the need." 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 Force today regarding the Department of Defense’s plan to add COVID-19 to the list of mandatory vaccinations for service members no later than mid September.

Biden stated that the country is still on a wartime basis and that "being vaccinated will allow our service members stay healthy, better protect their families and ensure our force is ready for action anywhere in the globe."

Austin sent Monday's memo to police.

His decision comes a bit more than a week after Biden told defense officials to develop a plan requiring troops to get shots as part of a broader campaign to increase vaccinations in the federal workforce. 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 caused new cases in the United States, increased hospitalizations, and death rates that have not been seen since last winter's peaks.

Austin 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 restrictions, 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 (e.g. sailors who deploy on a warship) have seen nearly 100% of their personnel get shot. 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 may 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 and what the dangers are. According to the Army, any soldier who fails to follow a lawful order for mandatory vaccinations and has not been granted an exemption may be subject to disciplinary action by a commander.

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 any vaccine, whether temporary or permanent. This can be done for a variety 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, while pregnant women or those with other medical conditions can delay a shot.

Some argue that people who have had the virus and have antibodies are immune to the shot and should not be given it. These types of claims are not supported by the military so it is unclear how they will be dealt with.

Defense officials claim that some military leaders support making mandatory the vaccination, believing that 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.

Last week, Navy officials stated that there was only one COVID-19-related hospitalization in sailors and Marines who have been fully vaccinated. The Navy, however, stated that there has been more than 123 hospitalizations in a similar group of unvaccinated sailors or Marines. It also said that less than 3% of its troops have tested positive to COVID-19.

Similar data were not provided by the other military services.

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