Military members might soon be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19, especially as cases related to the Delta variant rise. According to Reuters, the Pentagon is debating issuing a mandate that could come within the next few days.
Currently, the U.S. military reports that around half of the U.S. armed forces are fully vaccinated. That’s slightly lower than the national average, which sits at about 60% for adults (ages 18 and over) who have been fully vaccinated. However, as noted by Reuters, the difference could be explained by the fact that U.S. troops are generally younger, fitter and, thus, less threatened by the pandemic. According to Pentagon data, among the more than 611,000 people who have died from COVID-19 in the U.S., only 28 were U.S. service members.
Nonetheless, with troops stationed around the world and in places where vaccination rates are lower, President Joe Biden asked the Pentagon “to look into how and when they will add COVID-19” to its lengthy list of 17 mandatory vaccinations, reported Reuters, which added that Biden could issue a waiver requiring troop vaccination prior to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s formal approval.
Although the FDA has authorized the vaccines for emergency use, two “U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity,” told Reuters that they hope the FDA soon gives the vaccines full approval in the hopes that it would make the vaccine mandate less controversial.
Vaccine mandates have become a hot-button political issue in the U.S., noted Reuters, with one Kentucky lawmaker introducing legislation to prohibit such a military mandate and another former national security official calling COVID-19 vaccinations “a matter of military preparedness.” However, one military official told Reuters that if a mandate were in place, they think there would be little pushback from soldiers.
“We have a lot of vaccines that are required for self-protection and once this one is mandatory, I don’t think that we will have a lot of pushback,” the official said. “I think people will do as they’re required.”