All active duty US military personnel will soon need to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to news reports.
Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin is expected to announce the policy on Friday, The New York Times reported.
The new policy would cover roughly 1.3 million people who serve in the US armed forces. The potential policy, which has not been publicly announced, follows an announcement from President Joe Biden that all federal employees and on-site contractors must get the jab or submit regular Covid test results.
Mr Austin previously said he wouldn’t impose a vaccine mandate until the treatments were fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The available vaccines are currently under emergency use authorisation. The FDA is expected to fully approve the vaccines within about a month.
Under federal rules, the final determination about service members being vaccinated rests with the president, who must grant a waiver to the Defence Department. Experts are hopeful that more Americans will overcome their vaccine hesitancy when the see US soldiers getting the treatment.
“When people see that these guys got the vaccine and nothing happened to them, that could be decisive,” Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, a University of Pennsylvania bioethicist and Biden transition adviser, told the Times. “People admire our military. They can serve as a positive example.”
Thus far, the vaccination rate within the military has lagged behind what officials had hoped.
As of mid-July, 70 per cent of active-duty troops, who already get numerous other vaccines in the course of serving, had at least one shot of the vaccine. Military leaders had previously hoped the entire military would be vaccinated by then.
That’s still higher than the overall US vaccination rate. Fifty-eight per cent of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and just under 50 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Secretary Austin, who recently returned from an overseas tour, has taken pains to stress proper Covid protocols, often seen wearing a mask and fist-bumping his foreign counterparts.
He’s been so careful, in fact, that he drew the ire of Republicans, who accused him of “Covid theatre” for wearing a face shield and mask during his visit to the Philippines, even though he was following local requirements.
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