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."
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 Defense.gov/Coronavirus.
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