The Pentagon announced today that all members of the military must get a Covid-19 vaccine by Sept. 15. If the FDA moves the deadline for final approval of the vaccine, or if Covid continues to spread rapidly, the deadline may be moved up. The announcement was expected and leaked last week.
Some 64 percent of active duty military personnel are fully vaccinated.
Tens of thousands of woman of child-bearing age are in the military, and it’s unclear how the vaccine may affect them if they are pregnant or become pregnant. In 2016, over 13 percent of the women of childbearing potential in the military had a pregnancy-related “event,” according to the military’s health website. There were more than 64,000 live births in this military sub-population in 2016.
The Covid vaccine mandate also extends to military contractors.
The memo from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said:
As many of you know, President Biden asked me to consider how and when we might add the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines to the list ofthose required for all Service members. So, over the last week, I have consulted closely with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretaries of the Military Departments, the Service Chiefs, and medical professionals. I appreciate greatly the advice and counsel they provided.
Based on these consultations and on additional discussions with leaders ofthe White House COVID Task Force, I want you to know that I will seek the President’s approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September, or immediately upon the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licensure, whichever comes first.
By way of expectation, public reporting suggests the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine could achieve full FDA licensure early next month.
The intervening few weeks will be spent preparing for this transition. I have every confidence that Service leadership and your commanders will implement this new vaccination program with professionalism, skill, and compassion. We will have more to say about this as implementation plans are fully developed.
In the meantime, we will comply with the President’s direction regarding additional restrictions and requirements for unvaccinated Federal personnel. Those requirements apply to those of you in uniform as well as our civilian and contractor personnel.
We will also be keeping a close eye on infection rates – which are on the rise now due to the Delta variant – and the impact these rates might have on our readiness. I will not hesitate to act sooner or recommend a different course to the President if I feel the need to do so.
To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force. I strongly encourage all DoD military and civilian personnel – as well as contractor personnel – to get vacci~ated now and for military Service members to not wait for the mandate.
All FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective. They will protect you and your family. They will protect your unit, your ship, and your co-workers. And they will ensure we remain the most lethal and ready force in the world.
“Get the shot. Stay healthy. Stay ready,” he wrote.