Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is set to announce Friday that all 1.3 million active-duty US forces are required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, a report said Wednesday.
The decision comes days after President Biden said federal employees must either get vaccinated against the virus or submit to regular testing and observe social distancing requirements, according to Fox News.
The Pentagon would join the Department of Veterans Affairs in mandating coronavirus vaccinations for key personnel as the number of cases surges nationwide due to the Delta variant.
Because none of the vaccines have received final approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Austin must request a waiver from President Biden to make the vaccines mandatory for active-duty forces.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby had indicated earlier this year that Austin would wait until the vaccines were fully approved by the FDA before determining whether they would be made mandatory. However, the rapid spread of the highly contagious Delta variant seems to have altered Austin’s thinking.
“He’s [Austin’s] not going to let grass grow under his feet,” Kirby told reporters Tuesday. “The Delta variant has certainly affected us here in the military as it has affected the rest of the country. And when we have more to say about the status of the vaccines, we’ll certainly do that. I don’t think it will be very long.”
Military service members are already required to get as many as 17 different vaccines, depending on where they are based around the world. Some of the required vaccines are for ailments as varied as chickenpox; hepatitis A and B; measles, mumps and rubella (MMR); polio; and typhoid. Service members who deploy to the Middle East or the Korean Peninsula are required to receive a vaccine against anthrax.
According to the Pentagon, more than 1 million service members are fully vaccinated, and 233,000 have gotten at least one shot. Most of those who have received the vaccine are active-duty forces, rather than National Guard members or reservists. In all, there are roughly 2 million active-duty, Guard and Reserve troops.
As of this week, there have been more than 208,600 cases of COVID-19 among members of the US military. Of those, more than 1,800 members have been hospitalized and 28 have died. The number of cases increased by more than 3,000 in the last week alone, while the number of hospitalized grew by 36. Two Navy sailors have died in the last week.
With Post wires