Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will begin consulting medical professionals, as well as the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “to determine how and when to make recommendations to the president with respect to adding the COVID-19 vaccines to the full list of requirements for military personnel,” the Pentagon said today.
The statement followed President Joe Biden’s announcement, also today, that every federal government employee will be asked to attest to their vaccination status and anyone who is not vaccinated will be required to wear a mask and test one or two times a week.
Biden said that “since many vaccinations are required for active duty military today, I’m asking the Defense Department to look into how and when they will add COVID-19 to the list of vaccinations our armed forces must get.”
Austin tweeted July 16 that 70% of active duty service members had received their first COVID-19 vaccination and that 62% were fully vaccinated.
Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Jamal Brown said in a release that the Department of Defense “is moving quickly to meet President Biden’s commitment to defeat COVID-19, and that includes being able to ensure every member of our civilian and military workforce is protected.”
Biden said that although the highly-transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19 is spiking, the U.S. is not likely to see a comparable rise in hospitalizations or deaths in most areas.
“So, you have to ask yourself: Why is that? Because 164 million Americans are fully vaccinated, including 80 percent of those most vulnerable — our seniors,” Biden said.
Like many civilian hospital systems are doing, the Department of Veterans Affairs will now require COVID-19 vaccines for doctors and nurses and other health care workers who provide medical care for veterans, he said.
Biden said that every day, “more businesses are implementing their own vaccine mandates. And the Justice Department has made it clear that it is legal to require COVID-19 vaccines.”
“COVID-19 remains a significant and evolving threat to our nation’s security,” Brown said. “The rise of the Delta variant and the speed with which it transmits make these additional protective efforts all the more vital to protecting our force and the nation we defend.”
“Vaccines remain the best and most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID, including the Delta variant,” he added.