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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Effective “immediately,” the Pentagon is ordering all members of the U.S. military to get vaccinated against COVID-19, bumping up their original Sept. 15 inoculation deadline after the announcement earlier this week that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had granted their full approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The new vaccination mandate was announced via a memo from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who said the previous deadline to get the jab was subject to change if a vaccine were to receive full FDA approval beforehand.
“To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force,” Austin said. “After careful consultation with medical experts and military leadership, and with the support of the President, I have determined that mandatory vaccination against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is necessary to protect the Force and defend the American people.”
Previously, COVID-19 vaccines were only available via an “Emergency Use Authorization” by the FDA, and the Pentagon had noted that they would only require inoculations against COVID-19 if a vaccine had been granted full FDA approval.
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In an effort to get personnel the jab as quickly as possible, Austin’s memo requested that the various branches of the military “impose ambitious timelines” on their vaccination schedules.
However, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby confirmed that exceptions will only be made for service members on the grounds of religious objections or those who have a health condition.
“It’s a lawful order,” Kirby said. “And we fully anticipate that our troops are going to follow lawful orders. When you raise your right hand and you take that oath, that’s what you agree to do.”