Following the Food and Drugs Administration’s (FDA) decision to give the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine full approval, the Pentagon has announced that they will be mandating the shots for all members of the US military.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is “prepared to issue updated guidance requiring all service members to be vaccinated.,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters.
“These efforts ensure the safety of our service members and promote the readiness of our force, not to mention the health and safety of the communities around the country in which we live,” he said.
The Defense Department announced that it is preparing “guidance to the force” to make the vaccine mandatory and a timeline is to be provided in the coming days.
Currently, the plans are to mandate the Pfizer vaccine and there are currently no plans to do the same for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines. Kirby said that the focus right now is “moving forward to implement a mandatory vaccination regimen for Pfizer.”
Kirby said: “I don’t want to get ahead of decisions that haven’t been made yet.”
On Monday, the FDA granted the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine full approval, a decision that is expected to spark more mandates across the US and ‘boost’ vaccination rates.
The Pentagon has said that it has experienced its ‘deadliest’ month in August, with five service members deaths reported between August 11th and August 18th and eight reported in the last three weeks, according to the Defense Department’s latest numbers.
Prior to August, the department has reported around one or two service deaths monthly, with the highest being four in November. In total, the military has reported 34 deaths from Covid-19.
Previously, the Pentagon has not required the Covid-19 vaccine for its personnel because it was only under FDA emergency use authorisation (EUA).
Currently, the US military requires service members to receive 17 shots when they enter the military or before they deploy overseas, including jabs for measles, mumps, hepatitis and many others.
The FDA has stated that Moderna is likely to seek approval within the coming weeks, with other vaccines seeking the same. If the Defense Secretary wants to mandate the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines before full FDA approval, he must request a waiver from President Biden. Austin said that if infection rates continue to rise, he may head down that route.
Once the vaccine mandate is in place, “there could be administrative and disciplinary repercussions” for failing to comply.
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