In an exclusive TODAY interview that aired Friday morning, President Joe Biden said he hasn’t ruled out mandating all U.S. service members take COVID-19 vaccines, but described the decision as a “tough call.”
During the interview, NBC News’ Craig Melvin said, “Recent polling came out that showed 40 percent of Marines said they are not going to get vaccinated. Once you get the FDA gives final approval, not the emergency use authorization, but final approval, will you order service members to get the vaccine?”
“I don’t know, I’m going to leave that to the military,” Biden initially responded, before adding, “I’m not saying I won’t. I think you’re going to see more and more of them getting it. I think it is a tough call as to whether or not they should be required to have to get it in the military.”
Three different COVID-19 vaccines are currently in use in the U.S. after having been rapidly developed through Operation Warpspeed, an effort led by President Donald Trump’s administration. Those three vaccines are the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has thus far only allowed COVID-19 vaccines through emergency use authorizations (EUAs), and have not given full FDA approval to any vaccine thus far. Without full FDA approval, some legal experts believe federal law would prohibit mandating the vaccine.
Despite current legal questions surrounding vaccine mandates, efforts to policymakers are taking efforts to make people take the vaccine. The Washington Times reported last month multiple House Democrats called on Biden to issue a waiver allowing the Pentagon to mandate the vaccines for U.S. troops.
On Wednesday, Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, also told CNN that he hopes the FDA will grant full approval to the vaccines “very soon,” and that the FDA will work “as expeditiously as possible” to approve applications for new coronavirus vaccines as they come in.
Concerns about the rapid development of the various COVID-19 vaccines remain. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was recently temporarily paused after reportedly causing serious blood clots.
According to a Thursday CNN poll, roughly a quarter of American adults surveyed said they will not try to get the shot. Politico reported vaccine hesitance remains high among Republicans and younger, white Americans in rural communities.
The FBI also recently warned that those who try to fake COVID-19 vaccination records could face fines or imprisonment for up to five years, or both.