07/30/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 07/30/2021 11:33
Photo by:U.S. Army/Markus Rauchenberger
Planning for mandatory COVID-19 shots for service members is now underway at the Pentagon after a new directive from President Joe Biden.
Details and timing have not been determined, but the commander in chief issued a clear call to action. '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,' Biden said July 29 as he outlined steps the government was taking to slow the rise in COVID-19 cases. 'Our men and women in uniform who protect this country from grave threats should be protected as much as possible from getting COVID-19.'
After a steep decline, the U.S. is trying to fend off an increase in COVID-19 cases across the country caused largely by the highly transmissible delta variant of the virus and a decline in vaccinations, according to the CDC.
Biden's announcement came one day after DoD reinstated stricter mask rules indoors for service members, civilian employees and visitors, regardless of vaccination status, on DoD installations and facilities in areas with 'substantial or high community transmission' of COVID-19.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, areas with 'substantial' community transmission have at least 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week. Areas with more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week are in the 'high' transmission category.
In response to Biden's remarks, DoD said it 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,' Jamal Brown, deputy Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement.
This includes requiring all military and civilian DoD personnel to attest to their vaccination status, he said. 'Personnel unable or unwilling to do that will be required to wear a mask, physically distance, comply with a regular testing requirement and be subject to official travel restrictions,' he said.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will also begin consulting with military medical professionals and 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,' Brown said. 'In the meantime, we continue to offer vaccines to our personnel and their families around the world. And we will continue to adjust our protocols to the local conditions of the communities we serve in.'
Calling COVID-19 a 'significant and evolving threat' to the 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.'