Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will reportedly announce a mandatory COVID vaccine policy for all active-duty military on Friday.
The news comes following a speech last week by President Biden at which it was noted the Defense Department would look into “how and when” it will mandate military service members to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“This is particularly important because our troops serve in places throughout the world—many where vaccination rates are low and disease is prevalent,” a fact sheet explained.
According to Fox News, officials with the Defense Department said Austin made his recommendation to the White House Thursday and will issue a formal announcement today.
The report notes that “about 64% of active-duty forces are fully vaccinated,” well over the national average of Americans which sits at 49% according to numbers published by the Washington Post.
70% of Americans have thus far received the first shot.
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The Associated Press reports that there is some anxiety regarding the new COVID vaccines among military members. Making it mandatory could raise greater concerns.
Former Army lawyer Greg T. Rinckey tells the outlet that he has fielded a myriad of calls regarding the vaccine.
“A lot of U.S. troops have reached out to us saying, ‘I don’t want a vaccine that’s untested, I’m not sure it’s safe, and I don’t trust the government’s vaccine,” Rinckey said. “What are my rights?’”
Fox News indicates that a vaccine that has yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would require a presidential waiver.
Military members already receive numerous vaccines during basic training, with others being administered depending on deployment.
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The Associated Press (AP) also notes some military members are supportive of the idea of a mandatory COVID vaccine.
“Many see the COVID-19 vaccine as being necessary to avoid another major outbreak like the one last year that sidelined the USS Theodore Roosevelt and resulted in more than 1,000 crewmember cases and one death,” they write.
The AP also points out that military members likely won’t have a choice in the matter.
“Their rights are limited since vaccines are widely seen as essential for the military to carry out its missions, given that service members often eat, sleep and work in close quarters,” they write.
President Biden raised eyebrows when speaking about the possibility of a vaccine mandate for federal employees.
“That’s under consideration right now, but if you’re not vaccinated you’re not nearly as smart as I thought you were,” he said.
The White House has since said federal employees and contractors will have to wear masks, socially distance, and limit their travel if they refuse to get vaccinated.
The administration is considering similar measures for the military.
Last month, The Political Insider revealed that former officials from the Obama administration are pushing vaccine mandates once the FDA grants full approval to one or more of the shots.
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