According to a fact sheet released by the White House earlier this week, President Biden has instructed the Pentagon to look into “how and when” it will mandate servicemembers get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The document from the president urged the Defense Department to look into ways to add the COVID-19 vaccines to the list of required inoculations for servicemembers. Biden also ordered that all federal workers who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 will be subject to masking, social distancing, and frequent mandatory testing.

“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 on Thursday during a televised White House address.

“Right now, too many people are dying or watching someone they love die and say if ‘I’d just [gotten] the vaccine,'” Biden added. “This is an American tragedy. People are dying who don’t have to die.”

Every federal government employee and onsite contractor will be asked to attest to their vaccination status,” the White House said following the president’s statement. “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.”

A Shift in Pentagon Policy on COVID Vaccines

The Pentagon wasted little time in moving to implement this strategy as only a few hours after the president’s address, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with medical professionals and the Joint Chiefs to “determine how and when to make recommendations to President Joe Biden,” the Pentagon said on Thursday evening. 

Navy personnel being tested for COVID-19.
Navy personnel being tested for COVID-19. (U.S. Navy)

This signifies a shift in policy as for the past several months the Pentagon has been encouraging servicemembers to get vaccinated but drew the line at making the vaccination mandatory, stating that vaccines would not be required until the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson vaccines receive full authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.

Jamal Brown, deputy Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement, “The Department of Defense is moving quickly to meet President Biden’s commitment to defeat COVID-19, and that includes being able to ensure every member of our civilian and military workforce is protected.”