Pentagon will mandate COVID-19 vaccine now that Pfizer is approved

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a briefing.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a briefing in Washington on Friday. At left is Army Major Gen. William Taylor of Joint Staff operations.
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press )

The Pentagon says it will require service members to receive the COVID-19 vaccine now that the Pfizer vaccine has received full approval.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Monday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is making good on his vow earlier this month to require the shots once the Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine.

Kirby said guidance is being developed and a timeline will be provided in the coming days.

In a memo Aug. 9, Austin said he’d seek the president’s approval to make the vaccine mandatory no later than mid-September, or immediately upon FDA licensure, “whichever comes first.”


Kirby said the move is an effort to ensure the safety of service members. Concerns about the virus are especially acute in the military, where service members live and work closely together in barracks and on ships, increasing the risks of rapid spread. Any large virus outbreak in the military could affect America’s ability to defend itself in a security crisis.

Austin said in the memo to troops that he would not “hesitate to act sooner or recommend a different course to the president if l feel the need to do so.”