Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and President Joe Biden are expected to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for all military personnel this week, new reports revealed late Wednesday.
Reports from New York Times and CNN said Austin is expected to make a final recommendation to President Joe Biden and request a waiver from Biden to mandate the vaccines ahead of FDA approval.
Officials told Fox News that Austin will take that step on Thursday, and will make the official public announcement on Friday.
The mandate would affect the U.S. military’s 1.3 million service members. National Guard members would not be affected by the mandate unless activated by federal orders. Civilian contractors working for the Department of Defense are affected by mask and vaccine mandates for federal employees – the latter of which was implemented by Biden last week.
Biden had announced on July 29 that he was directing the Department of Defense to mandate the vaccine for all military personnel.
Last week, Austin told reporters while visiting the Philippines, “We won’t let grass grow under our feet,” adding, “The President directed us to do something and we’ll get after it.”
On Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby reiterated that message, telling reporters that Austin would not “let grass grow under his feet,” and teasing that the department had “more to say in very short order here.”
The U.S. military already mandates a number of vaccines for American troops, including shots against the flu, smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella, and tetanus-diphtheria, according to the U.S. Army basic website.
In April, Biden had said he hadn’t ruled out requiring vaccines for service members, but said the decision was a “tough call” that he would “leave that to the military.”
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters last month that mandating the vaccine was under consideration at the department.
“If these vaccines are approved by the FDA, then the secretary will certainly talk to the services and health care professionals here at the department to determine what the best options are going forward, which could include making them mandatory,” Kirby said on July 8.
Also in July, the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first federal agency to mandate vaccines for its 115,000 medical personnel.