Memo Seeks ‘Ambitious Timeline’ for Mandatory DoD COVID Vaccinations

Memo Seeks ‘Ambitious Timeline’ for Mandatory DoD COVID Vaccinations
Sgt. Angel Robles, USA, receives a COVID-19 vaccination at the 7th Army Training Command's Rose Barracks in Vilseck, Germany, on May 3. (Photo by Markus Rauchenberger/Army)

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin outlined details of DoD's mandatory COVID-19 vaccination protocols in an Aug. 24 memo, including a desire for "ambitious timelines" from the service branches for full implementation.


"Mandatory vaccinations are familiar to all of our Service members, and mission-critical inoculation is almost as old as the U.S. military itself," Austin wrote. "Our administration of safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines has produced admirable results to date, and I know the Department of Defense will come together to finish the job, with urgency, professionalism, and compassion."




News of the memo was first reported by The Associated Press. The policy update was expected after the full approval Aug. 23 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the Pfizer vaccine.


While DoD will use only fully approved vaccines as part of its inoculation program, servicemembers who have received COVID-19 vaccines approved under emergency use authorization by the FDA or the World Health Organization are considered fully vaccinated, per the memo.


Servicemembers with a previous COVID-19 infection aren't exempt from the vaccine. Servicemembers participating in vaccine trials are exempt from the requirement so as not to affect the results of those trials. Servicemembers seeking other types of exemptions must do so through their service branch, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby recently told members of the media.


More than 1 million servicemembers are fully vaccinated, according to DoD data. The service has enough Pfizer vaccine for the rest, according to the Associated Press report on the memo, which estimates more than 800,000 servicemembers are not yet fully vaccinated.


"The Secretaries of the Military Departments should impose ambitious timelines for implementation" of the vaccine order, Austin wrote in the memo. "Military Departments will report regularly on vaccination completion using established systems for other mandatory vaccine reporting."


"Our vaccination of the Force will save lives. Thank you for your focus on this critical mission."


Updated DoD guidance on the vaccine is available at


Stay Informed

It’s more important than ever to make sure you’re in the know and your military benefits are protected.

Join Now

About the Author

Kevin Lilley
Kevin Lilley

Lilley serves as MOAA's digital content manager. His duties include producing, editing, and managing content for a variety of platforms, with a concentration on The MOAA Newsletter and Follow him on Twitter: @KRLilley