Biden Directs Pentagon to Establish 'How and When' to Mandate COVID-19 Vaccines for US Troops
© REUTERS / Evelyn HocksteinU.S. President Joe Biden answers questions about the pace of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccinations during remarks at the White House in Washington
© REUTERS / Evelyn Hockstein
Presently, the US Department of Defense administers more than a dozen different vaccines to American troops, including jabs for hepatitis (A and B), measles, smallpox and influenza. Though over 70% of US troops are fully vaccinated against COVID, US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that a federal mandate for the vaccine is "under consideration."
During a Thursday address to the public, Biden announced that the federal government would be pursuing a more targeted approach against COVID-19, as the contagious disease's Delta variant surges in the US.
The US president, in conjunction with the new vaccine push, has ordered the Pentagon "to look into how and when they will add COVID-19 vaccination to the list of required vaccinations for members of the military," according to a White House fact sheet. "This is particularly important because our troops serve in places throughout the world—many where vaccination rates are low and disease is prevalent."
Pentagon officials have previously expressed that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would have to fully approve the vaccine before the military could begin such a mandate.
As of now, the COVID-19 vaccines in circulation in the US have only received emergency use authorization from the FDA.
© US Army/Pfc. Maxwell BassU.S. Army Sgt. Brandy Herrmann, assigned to the 24th Theater Public Affairs Support Element, receives the COVID-19 vaccination at Stayton Theater, at Fort Bliss, Texas, Feb. 5, 2021. Herrmann was instructed to wait 15 minutes before driving or participate in vigorous physical activity after receiving the shot. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Maxwell Bass, 24th Theater Public Affairs Support Element)
U.S. Army Sgt. Brandy Herrmann, assigned to the 24th Theater Public Affairs Support Element, receives the COVID-19 vaccination at Stayton Theater, at Fort Bliss, Texas, Feb. 5, 2021. Herrmann was instructed to wait 15 minutes before driving or participate in vigorous physical activity after receiving the shot. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Maxwell Bass, 24th Theater Public Affairs Support Element)
The administration's release applauded the Department of Veteran Affairs for becoming the US' first federal agency to take the "common-sense step" to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for affiliated health care providers and personnel.
"Too many veterans have already lost their lives to this virus, and veterans and their families deserve nothing less than us doing everything we can to protect their health," the White House declared.
Additionally, more than 50 public health, health care and medical groups published a joint statement on Monday urging other health industry groups to implement company-wide mandates requiring employees get fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
"Because of highly contagious variants, including the Delta variant, and significant numbers of unvaccinated people, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are once again rising throughout the United States," wrote the groups, which included the American Medical Association, the National Pharmaceutical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Though Biden floated "consideration" of a federal mandate for COVID-19 vaccines this week, the US president announced on Thursday that federal employees and contractors who have yet to be fully vaccinated must adhere to a number of measures. In addition to weekly - or bi-weekly - tests for COVID, unvaccinated federal workers and contractors will also have to wear masks while working and avoid traveling.
As for those not working for Washington, Biden called on state and local governments to sweeten the pot by offering individuals $100 to get fully vaccinated. Resources for such campaigns may be derived from the American Rescue Plan, according to the US president.