Aug 25, 2021 - Health

Pentagon orders troops to get COVID-19 vaccine immediately

U.S. Air Force Sgt. receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Osan Air Base
A U.S. Air Force sergeant receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Osan Air Base in Dec. 2020 in South Korea. Photo: United States Forces Korea via Getty Images

The Pentagon on Wednesday ordered military troops to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible, according to a memo from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin obtained by AP.

Why it matters: Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said Wednesday that "on the active duty force, 68% is fully vaccinated, and we estimate just over 76% have at least one dose."

Here are figures Kirby provided, by branch:

  • Army: 40% fully vaccinated with 57% with one dose.
  • Marine Corps: 53% fully vaccinated, 60% with one dose. 
  • Navy: 73% fully vaccinated, 79% with at least one dose. 
  • Air Force, which includes Space Force: 57% fully vaccinated, 64% with one dose.

State of play: Although he didn't set an official deadline for vaccinations in the memo, Austin encouraged service leaders to “impose ambitious timelines for implementation," per AP.

  • Military services will be expected to report regularly on the progress of their vaccination efforts. Service members will be able to receive their vaccines at their bases or commands abroad.
  • The military has reported 34 deaths, according to data from the Department of Defense.

What he's saying: “To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force,” Austin wrote, per AP.

  • "After careful consultation with medical experts and military leadership, and with the support of the President, I have determined that mandatory vaccination against coronavirus disease ... is necessary to protect the Force and defend the American people.”

The big picture: The Pentagon said earlier this month that it would plan to mandate COVID-19 vaccines by Sept. 15 or as soon as the FDA granted full approval.

  • Wednesday's memo from Austin comes after the FDA's full approval of the Pfizer vaccine on Monday.

Editors' note: This post has been updated with new numbers provided by the Pentagon.

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