A Pentagon spokesperson said that approximately 73% of active-duty service members have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with 62% fully vaccinated.
The Pentagon announced that COVID-19 vaccines will be mandatory for all troops by mid-September, officials said.
"To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a memo he sent out on Monday. ”I strongly encourage all DoD military and civilian personnel, as well as contractor personnel, to get vaccinated now and for military service members to not wait for the mandate."
In the letter, Austin said he will seek the president’s approval to make sure the vaccines are mandatory no later than mid-September, or as soon as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the vaccine, whichever comes first, NPR reported.
“I have every confidence that Service leadership and your commanders will implement this new vaccination program with professionalism, skill, and compassion,” the Defense Secretary wrote.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told reporters Monday that the memo issued was called in the military “a warning order,” so members know that it is coming and to be ready for it, CBS News reported.
He added, “Obviously we prefer that you get the vaccine now and not wait for the mandate.”
Kirby said the spread of the new delta variant was one of the reasons for the plan since nationwide numbers have surged.
He said that approximately, 73% of active-duty service members have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with 62% fully vaccinated.
For those service members who do not want to get vaccinated, Kirby said he will continue to appeal to them by telling them that it is an “opportunity to contribute to health and readiness of your teammates,” a report said.
Vaccines in the military are voluntary when under emergency use authorization by the FDA. The president has the jurisdiction to waive the rule and make the vaccine a requirement for personnel, CBS reported.
President Biden said he expressed his support for the secretary of defense's decision.
"Being vaccinated will enable our service members to stay healthy, to better protect their families, and to ensure that our force is ready to operate anywhere in the world,” according to a White House statement.