Pentagon mulls mandatory boosters

The US military is mulling whether to require Covid-19 booster shots for all soldiers, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said, even while acknowledging that thousands of active duty troops have yet to take even their first jab.

“There are active discussions here in the department at the policy level about booster shots and whether or not to make those mandatory,” Kirby told reporters during a Friday press briefing, adding “There have been no final decisions made about that.”

Rest assured, should there be an addition to that, in terms of the mandatory vaccine requirement, we’ll clearly communicate that and be transparent about it.

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File photo: A US Air Force airman is vaccinated, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, US, November 6, 2021.
Thousands of USAF personnel miss vaccine deadline

Asked about the some 40,000 unvaccinated troops across all branches and whether the Pentagon was happy with the immunization numbers, Kirby noted that “there’s more work to do” on that front, though nonetheless said the figures are “trending in the right direction.”

“[Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s] expectation is 100% vaccination, that’s what he wants to see,” he went on, calling the vaccine policy a “mandatory military readiness requirement” that all soldiers must follow, barring those who have obtained an exemption on medical, religious or other grounds. He also observed that some military deadlines for reserve and National Guard troops have yet to pass. 

Kirby’s comments came days after White House Covid-19 adviser Anthony Fauci said that the exact definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ would definitely change, and it was only a “matter of when, not if,” suggesting a booster dose could soon be counted as part of the standard vaccine regimen. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recently changed its guidelines for boosters, now recommending them for “everyone 16 and older” in the US.

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