Jul 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Mandate COVID vaccines for military, Panetta urges Biden

Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta speaks at a podium.

Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta speaks at a press conference in Los Angeles on Monday, Sep. 16, 2019. Photo: Scott Varley/MediaNews Group/Torrance Daily Breeze via Getty Images

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Gray Television's Greta Van Susteren that President Biden should require all members of the military to take the coronavirus vaccine, saying it was a matter of "national security," the Hill reports.

Driving the news: More than half of all service members have received at least one COVID-19 shot as of late June, according to the Hill.

  • "I frankly think the president ought to issue an order requiring everybody in the military to get a COVID-19 shot, period," Panetta said in an interview with Van Susteren set to air on Sunday, per the Hill.
  • “The last damn thing you need is to have those in the military that are our warriors unable to respond to a mission because they've gotten COVID-19. There's no excuse for that," Panetta said.

The big picture: Due to the vaccines status as being under an emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, the Pentagon cannot legally require all military members get the vaccine, but Biden could grant an exception.

  • During an interview in April with NBC's Craig Melvin, Biden said it would be a "tough call" about whether he would require service members to get the vaccine once the FDA fully approves it.
  • "I don’t know. I’m going to leave that to the military,” Biden said, per the Hill.
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