US to order all active-duty soldiers to be vaccinated against Covid-19

Washington, Aug 9 (EFE).- The Pentagon will order all active-duty US soldiers to get vaccinated against Covid-19 starting in September, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced on Monday in a message to the forces directed to all employees in his department.

In the text of the message, Austin said “I will seek the president’s approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September, or immediately upon” licensure by the Food and Drug Administration, “whichever comes first.”

Austin went on to say in the memo to military personnel: “I will not hesitate to act sooner or recommend a different course to the president if l feel the need to do so.”

The complete FDA approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine could come in early September, although so far only emergency authorization for use of the vaccine has been accorded by the agency.

Austin expressed confidence in US military leaders and commanders in implementing the vaccination program professionally, efficiently and with compassion.

He also urged unvaccinated people in the Defense Department to get immunized before it is required.

“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,” he wrote.

“All FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective,” Austin said. “They will protect you and your family. They will protect your unit, your ship, and your co-workers. And they will ensure we remain the most lethal and ready force in the world. Get the shot. Stay healthy. Stay ready.”

At a press conference on Monday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said he was sure that all military personnel “will obey” the orders issued by the Defense Department and the commanders of each service will ensure they are implemented because they know that one of the requirements of active military service is to be in good health.

He also said that in the coming days a directive will be issued by the DoD to clarify how the order is to be applied to all personnel within the department, including uniformed military personnel.

According to figures provided by the Pentagon spokesman, 73 percent of the active-duty personnel in the military have received at least one dose of the vaccine and a little over 60 percent are fully immunized. The percentages vary according to which service is being discussed, given that obligatory vaccination will be carried out in different phases.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden said on Monday: “I strongly support Secretary Austin’s message to the Force today on the Department of Defense’s plan to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccinations for our service members not later than mid-September. Secretary Austin and I share an unshakable commitment to making sure our troops have every tool they need to do their jobs as safely as possible.”

The optimism in the US a month ago over the effectiveness of the vaccines, which seemed to indicate that the pandemic would soon be brought to an end, has given way to alarm over the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

The presence of this mutation in the original coronavirus – with the Delta variant now being the predominant strain in the US in terms of newly detected cases – has caused hospitalization figures to shoot up nationwide.

Given this situation, the White House announced in late July that it would require the more than four million US government workers to show proof of vaccination against Covid if they did not want to have to undergo regular testing for the virus.


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