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Pentagon speeding up Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for entire US military after FDA approval

U.S. Army Maj. Bielosa Aworh receives COVID-19 vaccine at Fort Bliss, Texas, Feb. 5, 2021. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Maxwell Bass)
August 23, 2021

The Department of Defense announced on Monday that it would speed up President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all 1.3 million of its active-duty troops, according to Pentagon press secretary John Kirby. Earlier this month, the Pentagon said the vaccine would be mandated by September 15 or upon Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval — whichever came first.

“We’re going to move forward making that vaccine mandatory,“ Kirby said during a press briefing just hours after the FDA approved on Monday the first COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech. “We’re preparing the guidance to the force right now. The actual completion date of it, in other words how fast we want to see it done, we’re working through that guidance right now.”

“The FDA’s approval of this vaccine is a milestone as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. While this and other vaccines have met the FDA’s rigorous, scientific standards for emergency use authorization, as the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product,” Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. said in a statement.

“While millions of people have already safely received COVID-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated,” she continued. “Today’s milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S.” 

President Joe Biden praised the FDA’s vaccine approval and once again called on Americans to get the shots.

“The FDA has officially approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. While all three COVID vaccines have met FDA’s strict standards for emergency use, this FDA approval should give added confidence that this vaccine is safe and effective,” Biden tweeted. “If you’re not vaccinated yet, now is the time.”

Earlier this month, President Biden and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said they would mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for all military personnel by September 15 or upon FDA approval.  

“I will seek the President’s approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September, or immediately upon the U.S. Food and Drug Agency (FDA licensure), whichever comes first,” Austin said in a military-wide memo released Monday.

“Reporting suggests the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine could achieve full FDA licensure early next month,” Austin added. “I will not hesitate to act sooner or recommend a different course to the President if I feel the need to do so.”