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Military Health System

Austin Seeks Presidential Approval for Mandatory Troop Vaccinations by Mid-September

Image of Sailors receive COVID-19 vaccinations. Navy recruits receive a COVID-19 vaccination in Pacific Fleet drill hall at Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois. The COVID-19 vaccine will be mandatory for service members by mid-September, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said in a message to the force released yesterday. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Spencer Fling)

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President Joe Biden asked Austin to consider how and when the COVID-19 vaccine could be added to the list of required vaccines for all service members when the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus began to cause a spike in cases July 29. Austin, who was in Vietnam when the president made his speech on the subject, promised to "not let grass grow" as he made his decision.

"Our men and women in uniform who protect this country from grave threats should be protected as much as possible from getting COVID-19," Biden said during his July 29 speech.

Austin consulted with Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the service secretaries and the rest of the Joint Chiefs in making his decision.

"Based on these consultations and on additional discussions with leaders of the White House COVID-19 Task Force, I want you to know that 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 Administration licensure, whichever comes first," the secretary said in his memo.

News reports say full FDA licensure for the Pfizer vaccine is expected shortly.

Right now, 73% of active duty personnel have at least one dose of the vaccine, DOD officials said.

All DOD leaders will be involved in expanding the program. "I have every confidence that service leadership and your commanders will implement this new vaccination program with professionalism, skill and compassion," Austin wrote in the memo. "We will have more to say about this as implementation plans are fully developed."

Austin also said the department will comply with the president's direction regarding additional restrictions and requirements for unvaccinated federal personnel. These requirements cover military and civilian personnel.

The Delta variant is hitting hardest in states with large unvaccinated populations, White House officials said. In his July statement, Biden said the only way out of the pandemic is through vaccines. He called it "a life and death" decision.

The DOD will keep a close eye on infection rates "and the impact these rates might have on our readiness," Austin said. "I will not hesitate to act sooner or recommend a different course to the president if I feel the need to do so."

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Consolidated Department of Defense Coronavirus Disease 2019 Force Health Protection Guidance

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Consolidates and updates the Department’s guidance regarding vaccination verification, vaccination status, COVID-19 testing, surveillance and screening testing, personnel protection on-site mask requirements, (e.g., DHA military medical treatment facilities, meetings, travel), and the protection of personally identifiable information.

DHA-IPM 20-004: Department of Defense (DOD) Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Vaccination Program Implementation

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Establishes the Defense Health Agency’s procedures to implement instructions, assign responsibilities, and prescribe procedures for the DHA’s implementation of the DOD’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program.

Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination Attestation, Screening Testing, and Vaccination Verification

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This memorandum provides guidance on the implementation of vaccination, attestation, and testing requirements in accordance with the References listed in Attachment 1 to reduce the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.

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Establishes the DHA's procedures for ordering, receiving, and managing COVID-19 Vaccines inventory and ancillary kits for enduring COVID-19 support.

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This memorandum provides supplemental guidance on the provision of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines, in accordance with reference (a). The Defense Health Agency (DHA) is the lead coordinating DOD Component for executing this guidance, in coordination with the Military Departments and other DOD Components as appropriate.

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The Defense Health Agency (DHA) Memorandum, based on the authority of References (a) and (b), and in accordance with the guidance of References (c) and (d), establishes the DHA’s procedures to standardize the coding for Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) Military Medical Treatment Facilities (MTFs). This memorandum cancels and replaces DHA- Policy Memorandum 20-003 of (13 April 2020). A change was issued since the cancelled Memorandum 20-003 of (13 April 2020), the Attachment titles were updated to reflect that Attachments 1, 2, and 4 are considered Policies as opposed to Guidance.

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Last Updated: August 10, 2021
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