The Department of Defense is moving to make COVID-19 vaccinations required for all department employees.
“To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a memo to employees Monday. “I strongly encourage all DoD military and civilian personnel — as well as contractor personnel — to get vaccinated now and for military Service members to not wait for the mandate.”
The Pentagon cannot take the step unilaterally because the vaccine has not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The move would require a presidential waiver, which Austin plans to ask for by mid-September.
After that, individual services would draft plans for implementing a mandate within each military branch, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told reporters Monday.
Alternatively, if the FDA gives full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine before then, Austin has the authority to implement a mandate himself.