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Photo: Christof Stache/AFP via Getty Images

The Pentagon will require members of the military to get the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 15, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a memo on Monday.

Why it matters: About 64% of active duty military members are fully vaccinated, a low enough rate to pose concern for potential outbreaks and international deployments, reports the New York Times.

The big picture: Austin noted in the memo that the inoculation deadline could be moved up if the FDA gives final approval to the vaccine or if infection rates continue to rise.

  • Without the approval, Austin needs a waiver from President Biden to mandate the vaccines.
  • “I will seek the president’s approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September, or immediately upon” the FDA's approval, Austin wrote in the memo.
  • “I will not hesitate to act sooner or recommend a different course to the President if l feel the need to do so," he added. "To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force."

Biden said in a statement Monday that he strongly supports Austin's "message to the Force today on the Department of Defense’s plan to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccinations for our service members not later than mid-September."

  • "Secretary Austin and I share an unshakable commitment to making sure our troops have every tool they need to do their jobs as safely as possible. These vaccines will save lives. Period. They are safe. They are effective," he added.
  • "Being vaccinated will enable our service members to stay healthy, to better protect their families, and to ensure that our force is ready to operate anywhere in the world. We cannot let up in the fight against COVID-19, especially with the Delta variant spreading rapidly through unvaccinated populations."

State of play: As COVID-19 case numbers surge across the United States, the government has rolled out several new vaccination mandates, including for federal workers and contractors.

  • Biden hinted last month that military personnel could be next for a vaccine mandate.
  • On Sunday NIAID director Anthony Fauci said that FDA approval of the vaccines could be coming within a matter of weeks.

Go deeper

Oct 22, 2021 - Health

Illinois mandates daycare workers to receive COVID vaccine or weekly testing

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a round table discussion with high school students in October 2018. Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced Friday that all daycare workers in the state will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or or submit to weekly testing.

Driving the news: Pritzker said he was issuing the requirement to protect "babies, toddlers, and young children not yet eligible for the vaccine."

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."

Oct 22, 2021 - Health

Pfizer says COVID vaccine over 90% effective in kids

Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech said their COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective at protecting children between the ages of 5 and 11 from symptomatic infections from the virus, according to a study posted online by the FDA Friday.

Why it matters: Pfizer is seeking an emergency use authorization to vaccinate children — one of the last groups of Americans still largely ineligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine.