The Pentagon Tuesday ended its COVID-19 vaccination requirements for US Armed Forces members, 96 percent of whom are now vaccinated against the illness. The Department stated in a memo that it will continue to promote COVID-19 vaccination among the armed forces.
The memo alters the impact of the National Defence Authorisation Act which came into force in 2022. The act directed the Pentagon to lift the vaccine mandate on the armed forces. However, Tuesday’s memo provides commanders with some discretion to consider the vaccination status of personnel, as it reinforced that commanders will have an ongoing responsibility to support the health and safety of the force. The memo outlines that commanders will continue to be required to consider the immunization status of Service members in making decisions about deployment, assignment and travel to nations with vaccine mandates.
In a press release, the Department of Defense stated:
The health and readiness of the Force are crucial to the Department’s ability to defend our nation. Secretary Austin continues to encourage all Service members, civilian employees, and contractor personnel to get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 to ensure Total Force readiness.
The vaccination requirements were in place since August 2021 and initially only applied to personnel under the Department’s authority, on active duty, in the Ready Reserve or the National Guard. The requirements were expanded in November 2021 to include civilian employees of the Department.