Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Alabama, released a statement on Monday supporting COVID-19 vaccinations for the U.S. military after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced that he will seek President Joe Biden’s approval to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for service members no later than mid-September or upon licensure by the FDA.
“As the secretary stated, a healthy and ready force is needed to confront all the challenges we face,” Rogers said. “The Department of Defense already requires 17 vaccines to protect members of the military from infectious diseases, including: influenza, measles, mumps, smallpox, and diphtheria. Vaccines protect our men and women, many of whom live in cramped and crowded conditions, from the spread of disease while at home or deployed across the globe. Teleworking isn’t an option for the soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, and guardians who work every day to confront near-peer rivals and non-state terrorists. We have already seen COVID-19 affect our readiness downrange. Our adversaries will take any advantage they can over us. We must not allow COVID-19 to be a hindrance on our force. Secretary Austin earlier confirmed that, as of Mid-July, over 70% of active-duty troops had received at least one vaccine shot. That is encouraging news and I hope that number reaches 100% quickly.”
According to a new memo from Austin, an Alabama native, the Pentagon will require all military personnel to get the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 15 or once it gets final approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“I will seek the president’s approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September, or immediately upon” final approval by the FDA, “whichever comes first,” Austin wrote in the memo to members of the Armed Forces.
Austin added that Pentagon officials “will also be keeping a close eye on infection rates” currently on the rise now due to the emergence of the delta variant.
Austin said that if the rates begin to impact military readiness, “I will not hesitate to act sooner or recommend a different course to the president if l feel the need to do so. To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force.”
Biden last month told Defense Department officials to come up with a plan to require the troops to get the vaccine.
Following Austin’s announcement, Biden said: “Secretary Austin and I share an unshakable commitment to making sure our troops have every tool they need to do their jobs as safely as possible. Being vaccinated will enable our service members to stay healthy, to better protect their families, and to ensure that our force is ready to operate anywhere in the world. We cannot let up in the fight against COVID-19, especially with the Delta variant spreading rapidly through unvaccinated populations. We are still on a wartime footing, and every American who is eligible should take immediate steps to get vaccinated right away.”
Congressman Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, in anticipation of the move last week, criticized the Biden administration for mandating that our soldiers get the vaccine.
“It is absolutely reckless that Secretary Austin is considering a blanket mandate for active-duty military to receive a vaccine approved only for emergency use to protect against a virus with well over a 99 percent survival rate,” Moore said. “Our fighting men and women are disproportionately younger, healthier and significantly less at risk from the coronavirus than the general population, and recent reports show that almost 70% of our men and women in uniform have already voluntary taken the vaccine. Our servicemembers shouldn’t be unnecessarily forced into taking the vaccine just because overreaching politicians want to continue intervening in the private lives of the American people.”
Until now, the Pentagon had not mandated the COVID-19 vaccine as it remains under the FDA emergency use authorization. The Department, however, has been strongly encouraging troops to take the vaccine. Austin said that the military will be preparing procedures on how to implement this policy.
“In the meantime, we will comply with the President’s direction regarding additional restrictions and requirements for unvaccinated Federal personnel,” Austin said. “Those requirements apply to those of you in uniform as well as our civilian and contractor personnel.”
The FDA is expected to give final approval to the Pfizer vaccine in the coming weeks.
U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, has been strongly urging the people of Alabama to get vaccinated for COVID-19.
“Getting the vaccine is a big decision. That’s why I hope you talk to your doctor or someone you trust, so you’re armed with information,” Tuberville said. “The delta variant is highly contagious, and we’re seeing it spread. I hope not a single other person catches COVID, but until it’s completely in the rearview mirror, the vaccine is the safest, most effective way to make sure you and your loved ones don’t get seriously sick from the virus.”
To this point, 11,625 Alabamians have died from COVID-19 and tens of thousands have been hospitalized.
Congressman Mike Rogers is the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee. He is serving in his 10th term representing Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District.