The Pentagon has officially decided to drop its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for troops. President Joe Biden’s administration finally rescinded the mandate after a bit of stalling. This decision came after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signed legislation on Dec. 23 that allowed him 30 days to declare the mandate void.
Austin, who set the mandate in motion in August 2021, revealed that the Department would continually promote and encourage COVID-19 vaccination for all troops in active service. Austin also added that the vaccination fosters operational readiness and protects the force.
Since its inception, the highly controversial policy has attracted much criticism from Republicans amid an increasingly demanding labor crisis for new troops.
According to Defense Department data, over 8,500 troops which include Marines, soldiers and sailors, have since been discharged for refusing to get vaccinated. In addition, troops in their thousands have also applied for a medical exemption, and Austin’s newly signed memo ends exemption requests.
While Austin encouraged all service members to continue with their vaccination and booster shots, troops who refused to get the shot would no longer face any sanctions from the military.
The current projections are that 99% of activity-duty troops in the Air Force, the Navy, and the Marine Corps have been vaccinated, with just 90% of the Guard and Reserve troops vaccinated.
Lawmakers unveiled the National Defense Authorization Act, which funds the military. The $858 billion military policy bill included languages that will end the Pentagon’s vaccine mandate. The Biden administration repealed this move initially. However, Republicans have prevailed after threatening to kill the bill if the mandate continues.
The military COVID vaccine mandate will end!
Page 407 & 408 of NDAA text just released.
Next steps: end all COVID vax mandates (healthcare workers and foreign visitors), and reinstate all members of military wrongfully terminated due to vax.https://t.co/hRVftUh6yl pic.twitter.com/o8noBxngGe
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) December 7, 2022
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who supported the move alongside Sens. Rick Scott (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), issued a triumphant statement hailing the decision to protect service members from the vaccine. Senators Rick Scott of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas had also pushed hard for the repeal.
Other top republicans who joined in the fight include House speaker Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), SenS. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Essentially, the republicans prioritized the jettisoning, arguing that the requirement amounted to federal overreach and eroded military readiness.
The push to end the vaccine mandate gained support from democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA). Smith, who had previously supported the vaccine mandate, told Politico he was open to discussing the mandate’s removal.
“I was a very strong supporter of the vaccine mandate when we did it, a very strong supporter of the Covid restrictions put in place by DoD and others,” Smith said. “But at this point in time, does it make sense to have that policy from August 2021? That is a discussion that I am open to and that we’re having.”