Sec. of Defense Lloyd Austin published a memo Wednesday telling military commanders that they would have to “have ambitious timelines for the implementation” of the Pentagon’s coronavirus vaccine mandate.
“To defend this country, we must have a healthy and ready force,” Austin said in the memo first gotten by The AP. “After careful discussion with military leaders and medical experts, and with the backing of the President, I have decided that mandatory vaccines against coronavirus disease … is needed to protect the Force and defend the American public.”
In his memo, Austin stated he wanted the vaccination process to start “immediately” for all unvaccinated troops under the Pentagon including those on active duty and the national guard.
The AP reported that around 800,000 troops have not yet gotten vaccinated.
Crucially, the memo also states that mandatory vaccination “will be subject to contraindications and any administrative or other exemptions given by Military Dept. policy.” This means that service members may still apply for medical or religious exemptions, although such exemptions won’t be allowed without confrontation.
“There is a religious exemption path for any mandatory vaccine, and there is a process that we go through to counsel the people from a command perspective about the religious exemption,” Pentagon Media Secretary John Kirby stated on August 10.
Now that the FDA has approved the Pfizer vaccine for Americans over 16, Pentagon officials expect to hasten vaccination efforts. Kirby said this Monday that a timeline for the mandate for troops would be here soon.
Kirby also stated “there would be disciplinary repercussions” if troops do not get the vaccine.
The AP notes that Austin’s message “does not give a specific time frame for completing the vaccinations. But a senior official did say that Austin has made it clear that he expects them to go fast and that this will be done in weeks and not months.”
Austin stated that he expected “routine reporting” from his commanders on the status of the vaccinations. He ended by praising the vaccine efficacy. “Our vaccination of the military will save lives. Thank you for your focus on this crucial mission,” he said.
Author: Scott Dowdy