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For US Troops, Getting COVID Vaccine Is Now a Matter of ‘How and When’

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The Pentagon must determine “how and when” the vaccine will be mandated for all service members, too, President Joe Biden announced Thursday.

“Today I’m asking the Defense Department to look into how and when they will add COVID-19 to the list of vaccinations the Armed Forces must get,” Biden said during a televised address from the White House.

Biden also encouraged federal employees and contractors to get vaccinated, and imposed new requirements on those who do not.

“Every federal government employee and onsite contractor will be asked to attest to their vaccination status,” the White House said in a statement accompanying the president’s remarks. “Anyone who does not attest to being fully vaccinated will be required to wear a mask on the job no matter their geographic location, physically distance from all other employees and visitors, comply with a weekly or twice weekly screening testing requirement, and be subject to restrictions on official travel.”

For months, the Pentagon has encouraged the vaccines but resisted making them mandatory, saying they would not be required until the Pfizer, Moderna, and other vaccines received full authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.

In questions with reporters, Biden said he “knows” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is open to requiring the vaccine before it receives full FDA approval.

A few hours after Biden’s speech, deputy Pentagon press secretary Jamal Brown said in a statement that “all military and civilian DOD personnel will be asked to attest to their vaccination status. Personnel unable or unwilling to do that will be required to wear a mask, physically distance, comply with a regular testing requirement and be subject to official travel restrictions.”

Austin also will “begin consulting our medical professionals, as well as the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to determine how and when to make recommendations to the President with respect to adding the COVID-19 vaccines to the full list of requirements for military personnel,” Brown said.

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