The U.S. Department of Defense could shift its battle to the COVID-19 pandemic through imposing mandatory vaccines for armed forces. The effort is hoped to curb the number of surging Delta variant cases.
Reuters revealed Pentagon officials are deciding whether to mandate vaccinations within military ranks to protect troops from the deadly disease. A decision is expected to be announced shortly.
The revelation came as the department braces for vaccine mandates since about half of the nation’s armed forces is fully vaccinated. This is lower than the national average rate for adults of about 60 percent.
Since service members are generally younger and fitter, relatively fewer of them have died from COVID-19. The virus tends to kill more people with heart disease, diabetes, dementia, pneumonia, and other chronic illnesses.
Vaccination rates are the highest in the U.S. Navy. About 73 percent of sailors are fully vaccinated, following a high-profile 2020 outbreak aboard an aircraft carrier.
President Joe Biden wants the department to investigate “how and when they will add COVID-19” to the ever-growing list of mandatory vaccinations.
“Our troops serve in places throughout the world, many where vaccination rates are low and disease is prevalent,” he said in a statement.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin promises to work with medical advisers and other military leaders on planning the way forward. He hopes the military will move as quickly as possible.
Vaccines have arguably become a political issue across the United States. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) recently introduced a bill to prohibit the vaccine mandate for troops.
However, American Enterprise Institute senior fellow Kori Schake believes soldiers should be fully vaccinated as a part of their military preparedness.
The pandemic killed more than 630,000 people in the United States at the time of publication according to the Worldometer website.