A U.S. Marine is given the Moderna coronavirus vaccine at Camp Foster on April 28, 2021 in Ginowan, Japan.
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WASHINGTON – The Pentagon said Monday it would try to make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for service members by mid-September at the latest.
President Joe Biden supported the move.
“I am proud that our military and men will continue to take the lead in the fight against this pandemic, as so often, by setting a good example to protect their fellow Americans,” the president said in a statement Monday afternoon.
In a message to the force, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said he had consulted with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, secretaries and chiefs of sister service branches, and the White House Covid Task Force before reaching that decision.
“I have every confidence that service and your commanders will implement this new vaccination program with professionalism, skill and compassion,” Austin wrote in his memo to all Department of Defense officials.
United States President Joe Biden listens as Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, USA on Wednesday, February 10, 2021.
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“We will also keep a close eye on the infection rates that are now increasing with the Delta variant and their impact on our operational readiness President, if I think it is necessary,” wrote Austin.
The decision is made because the delta variant of Covid-19 is spreading rapidly, driving up hospital stays and serious illnesses in unvaccinated people.
The Pentagon says roughly half of the U.S. military is already fully vaccinated, with the Navy recording the highest vaccination rates. The Navy says about 73% of sailors are fully vaccinated.
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The military already requires vaccinations against several other diseases.
The White House welcomed Austin’s decision, saying the vaccines are safe and “will help our service members stay healthy, better protect their families and ensure our armed forces are operational anywhere in the world”.
“These vaccines will save lives. Period. You are safe. They’re effective, ”said Biden.
According to the Pentagon, 28 service members have died as a result of Covid since the outbreak of the corona virus.