WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Pentagon says it’s preparing to make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for the U.S. military.
Spokesman John Kirby said Monday that Pentagon officials are preparing to issue guidance to require vaccination now that the Pfizer vaccine has been given full approval by the Food and Drug Administration.
Kirby said guidance is being developed and a timeline will be provided in the coming days.
Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a memo that he would “seek the president’s approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September, or immediately upon” licensure by the FDA — “whichever comes first.”
Austin said in the memo to troops that he would not “hesitate to act sooner or recommend a different course to the president if l feel the need to do so.”
Kirby said the health of the force, civilians, families, and communities is a top priority of the military.
“It’s important to remind everyone that these efforts ensure the safety of our service members and promote the readiness of our force, not to mention the health and safety of our communities around the country in which we live,” he said.
The full approval for the Pfizer vaccine, which will now be marketed under the name "Comirnaty," applies to people 16 and older. The vaccine is still available for kids aged 12 through 15 under emergency use authorization.
Top health officials in the U.S. hope that granting full approval to the Pfizer vaccine will alleviate the fears among those who remain hesitant about getting a shot.
Full approval also opens the door for more government departments and businesses to issue vaccine mandates.