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Joe Biden. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Members of the military will be required to get vaccinations or face regular testing, social distancing, mask mandates and restrictions on travel for work, the the Pentagon said on Thursday evening.

Why it matters: The policy was announced for federal workers and onsite contractors earlier on Thursday, part of several new Biden initiatives to get more Americans vaccinated and slow the spread of the Delta variant.

  • The plan outlines aggressive next steps from the federal government as COVID-19 cases surge across the country due to the contagious Delta variant and as demand for vaccines has tapered off.

Driving the news: The new initiatives include:

  • Requiring federal workers, military members and onsite contractors to declare their vaccination status. Those not fully vaccinated will be required to wear face masks at work, get tested 1-2 times per week, socially distance, and won't be allowed to travel for work.
    • Biden added his team was looking into applying similar rules for all federal contractors. "If you want to do business with the federal government, get your workers vaccinated," he said.
  • Directing the Department of Defense to look into adding COVID-19 vaccination to the list of mandatory inoculations for people in the military.
  • Expanding paid leave for families to get vaccinated by reimbursing small-and-medium sized businesses who allow their employees and their families to get paid time off for vaccinations.
  • Calling on states, territories, and local governments to offer $100 to newly vaccinated individuals, as an additional vaccine incentive.
  • Increasing vaccination rates among teens by calling on pharmacies to hold pop-up vaccination clinics at schools and colleges.

The big picture: Biden stated that the country is experiencing a "pandemic of the unvaccinated."

  • Biden added that currently booster shots are not needed but that this could change in the future. He also noted that the U.S. has enough doses to provide boosters if they become necessary.
  • He addressed vaccine hesitancy among some and commended Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for encouraging people to get vaccinated.
  • Asked about vaccine mandates, Biden noted that it's "still a question whether the federal government can mandate the whole country" to get inoculated.
  • Biden called the abundant vaccine supply in the U.S a "blessing" which would be a "shame to squander."

What he's saying: "Masking is one defense against the spread of COVID-19. But make no mistake. Vaccines are the best defense against you getting severely ill from COVID-19. The very best defense," Biden said.

  • "The decision to be unvaccinated impacts someone else. Unvaccinated people spread the virus. They get sick and fill up our hospitals and that means if someone else has a heart attack or breaks a hip, there may not be a hospital bed for them," Biden warned.
  • "Get vaccinated for yourself, for the people you love, for your country."

Go deeper

John Frank, author of Denver
Oct 22, 2021 - Axios Denver

Michael Porter Jr. emerges as prominent COVID-19 vaccine skeptic

Michael Porter Jr. Photo: Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Denver Nuggets star Michael Porter Jr. steps onto the court at Ball Arena Friday unvaccinated against the coronavirus.

Why it matters: The 23-year-old shooter is emerging as one of the NBA's most vocal skeptics of the COVID-19 vaccine — and among the most prominent in Colorado.

How one local leader is pushing for COVID boosters

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

At the Triangle View Apartments on B Street SE, Beatrice Evans, 68, is helping her neighbors get their shots.

On Oct. 27, Evans, the building’s tenant association president, is organizing a vaccine clinic to offer COVID-19 booster shots to the residents, largely Black seniors.

Why it matters: 49 of the 50 D.C. residents who since June have died of COVID-19 were Black, according to an analysis of DC Health data first reported by DCist.

Oct 22, 2021 - Health

CDC director: U.S. may change definition of "fully vaccinated" as boosters roll out

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday the U.S. "may need to update" its definition for what it means to have full vaccination against COVID.

The big picture: The CDC and the FDA have officially approved boosters with every authorized vaccine in the U.S. for people who meet specific requirements. Walensky explained that since not everyone is eligible for a booster, the definition has not been changed "yet."