The Pentagon will require members of the US military to get the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 15, according to a memo obtained by the AP. That deadline could be pushed up if the vaccine receives final FDA approval or infection rates continue to rise. "I will seek the president’s approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September, or immediately upon" licensure by the FDA "whichever comes first," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says in the memo to troops, warning them to prepare for the requirement. He added that if infection rates rise and potentially affect military readiness, "I will not hesitate to act sooner or recommend a different course to the President if l feel the need to do so. To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force." The memo is expected to go out Monday.
Austin's decision comes a bit more than a week after President 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. Austin said in his memo says that the military services will have the next few weeks to prepare, determine how many vaccines they need, and how this mandate will be implemented. The additional time, however, also is a nod to the bitter political divisiveness over the vaccine and the knowledge that making it mandatory will likely trigger opposition from vaccine opponents. It also provides time for the FDA to give final approval to the Pfizer vaccine, which is expected early next month. Without that formal approval, Austin would need a waiver from Biden to make the shots mandatory.
(Read more coronavirus vaccine