All active-duty soldiers should be vaccinated by Dec. 15, the U.S. military said on Tuesday.
“It is literally a matter of life and death for our soldiers, their families and the communities in which we live,” Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle, Army Surgeon General, said in a statement. “The number of cases and deaths continue to be of concern as the Delta variant spreads, making force protection through mandatory vaccination a health and readiness priority for the entire military. . “
Reserve and National Guard units are expected to be fully vaccinated by June 30, 2022. There are 485,000 active duty members in the military, 189,500 in the reserve and 336,000 in the National Guard.
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III issued a memorandum in August ordering mandatory Covid vaccinations for military personnel using only vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The Pfizer vaccine received full FDA approval in August.
Lloyd called on secretaries from different branches of the armed forces “to impose ambitious timelines for implementation and to report regularly on vaccination completion using established systems for other mandatory vaccine reporting.”
The military said in the statement that soldiers who refuse the vaccine will first be advised by their superiors. But if the military does not get exemptions for legitimate medical, religious or administrative reasons and continue to fail to comply with the warrant, they could be fired or punished, the statement said.
President Joe Biden began using federal guidelines to make vaccination of the American workforce mandatory. Its recent executive order requiring vaccines for private sector employees, healthcare workers and federal contractors targets around 100 million workers. In early August, the president also provided support for mandatory vaccinations in the US military.