Defense Secretary recommends vaccination warrant for troops
WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III will decide in the coming days whether to recommend President Biden to make the coronavirus vaccination mandatory for the nation’s 1.3 million active-duty soldiers, said military officials, signaling a major administration decision to toughen the country’s defenses against the highly contagious Delta variant.
Mr Biden announced last week that all federal employees and on-site contractors must be vaccinated against the coronavirus, or be required to undergo regular testing and other measures. The requirement extended to 766,372 civilians working for the Defense Ministry, but not active duty members.
That may soon change, administrative and military officials said on Tuesday. Mr Austin, who recently returned to the United States after a trip to Asia, asked the military to report on how and when they would go about putting in place a warrant. Mr Austin has previously said he would not be comfortable with a tenure until the vaccines are fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but officials and executives from all walks of life are rethinking their position as the Delta variant increases.
The FDA plans to fully approve Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine, one of the most widely used vaccines, by early next month, people familiar with the effort said. The move will result in more vaccination mandates across the country, but officials say Mr Austin should not wait for final approval before making his recommendation.
“He won’t let the grass grow under his feet,” Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby told reporters at a press conference Tuesday. “We will have more to say in a very short time here.”
Because the health and justice authorities that govern the military are different from those that apply to other federal workers, the decision will ultimately be made by the president, who must grant a waiver to the Department of Defense to make vaccines mandatory. . Military leaders cannot demand vaccines because coronavirus vaccines are not fully approved and are only allowed in emergencies.
About 64 percent of active-duty military personnel are fully immunized, above the 60 percent of Americans over 18 who are fully immunized. But for the military, the rate is unacceptably low, raising preparedness issues for increased cases among the military. It is also difficult to deploy troops who have not been vaccinated to countries with strict local restrictions.
Beyond preparation, much of the pressure for a mandate for the military rests on the belief that military personnel could set an example for their families and friends in states with reluctance to immunize. was higher.
“When people see that these guys got the vaccine and nothing happened to them, it could be decisive,” said Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania who counseled Biden during his career. transition.
“People admire our army,” he said. “They can serve as a positive example.”