WASHINGTON — The Pentagon will mandate the Covid-19 vaccine for members of the military by no later than mid-September, according to a new memo from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
The deadline could be pushed up if the Food and Drug Administration gives final approval to the Pfizer vaccine, which is expected early next month. The military will have the next few weeks "preparing for this transition," Austin said.
Last month, as a result of the spike in Covid cases, President Joe Biden said that federal employees will be asked to attest to being fully vaccination, and those who do not will be required to wear a mask and socially distance from other employees and visitors.
Biden, in a statement Monday, commended the new mandate by Austin.
"I am proud that our military women and men will continue to help lead the charge in the fight against this pandemic, as they so often do, by setting the example of keeping their fellow Americans safe," the president said.
More than 1 million members of the military are fully vaccinated and another 237,000 are partially vaccinated, according to the Defense Department. The Army has the most servicemembers fully vaccinated, with the Navy and Air Force not far behind.
Mandating vaccines in the military "is not new" and troops have received multiple vaccines since the first days of basic training, said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, in a memo to the Force.
Milley urges servicemembers to reach out to leaders and medical providers in the Force with any questions regarding side effects or implications.
"If you have taken the vaccine, thank you. If you have not yet taken the vaccine, please do so to protect yourself and those around you," said Milley.
Austin said he will be monitoring the infection rates closely and won't hesitate to act sooner or recommend a different course to the president if he feels the need to do so.