According to the latest data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some 171 million or 51.6% of all Americans have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. The White House redoubled its efforts to promote vaccination this summer amid the rapidly spreading Delta variant of COVID-19.
US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin has ordered all military personnel to get their coronavirus vaccine shots and instructed top officers to “impose ambitious timelines for implementation”.
“To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force. After careful consultation with medical experts and military leadership, and with the support of the President, I have determined that mandatory vaccination against coronavirus disease […] is necessary to protect the Force and defend the American people”, Austin said in a memo distributed by the Pentagon.
While the document does not provide a clear deadline for vaccinating the roughly 800,000 unvaccinated active duty and reserve servicemen, an anonymous senior defence official told the AP that Austin had made it clear to commanders that he expects the process to be completed within weeks, not months. So far, a little over one million active duty service members, National Guard, and reservists have been fully vaccinated in the US.
The start of the mandatory vaccination campaign by the Pentagon was preceded by the Food and Drug Administration fully approving the Pfizer vaccine. Austin called the FDA authorisation of a COVID vaccine a prerequisite for making it mandatory for all troops. The mandatory vaccination launched by the Pentagon will specifically offer servicemen Pfizer’s jab and the secretary of defence said that it had enough in stock. However, troops are free to get an alternative shot on their own.
Despite being mandatory, the Pentagon vaccination campaign allows for exceptions. If a military member has “existing immunity” to COVID-19, an immunodeficiency disorder like HIV, or an allergic reaction to vaccine components, they can be exempt from the vaccination. Several rare administrative exemptions also exist, for example in cases where a person’s religion prohibits vaccination.
Over 171 million, or 51.6%, of all Americans have been fully vaccinated so far, with the White House expanding its pro-vaccination campaign this summer amid the spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus. At the same time, the active promotion of vaccines sparked concerns among Americans that the jabs might be made mandatory, prompting several demonstrations against government mandates on masks and vaccinations.