The coronavirus pandemic is a national security threat and the Pentagon is considering adding COVID-19 vaccines to “the full list of requirements for military personnel,” according to a statement late Thursday.
The Biden administration has not said it will require COVID-19 vaccines for federal workers and the military but will force those who are unvaccinated to take frequent tests and take additional steps to prevent infection.
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The vaccines are still being administered under an Emergency Use Authorization, and have not been fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration, raising potential legal issues for the administration to make the jabs a requirement. But the president—facing slowing vaccination numbers and missing his goal of getting 70% of the country at least partially vaccinated by the Fourth of July—has recently come out more forceful for Americans to take the jab.
The Pentagon said the Department of Defense is working to “meet President Biden’s commitment to defeat COVID-19, and that includes being able to ensure every member of our civilians and military workforce is protected.”
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Military and civilian personnel in the department who don’t take the vaccine will have to “wear masks, physically distance, comply with a regular testing requirement and be subject to official travel restrictions.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will consult health officials and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to “determine how and when to make recommendations to the President with respect to adding the COVID-19 vaccines to the full list of requirements for military personnel,” the statement read.
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ABC News reported earlier this month that about 70% of all military personnel have received at least one dose of the vaccine. The report pointed out that Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., tweeted at the time that he was told by members of the military that they would quit if the vaccine ever became mandatory.