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Biden announces Pentagon directive to plan for mandatory military COVID-19 vaccinations

UPDATED: Thu., July 29, 2021

President Joe Biden speaks while meeting with an instructor and an apprentice in a classroom at the IBEW / NECA Electrical Training Center in Cincinnati on July 21.  (Andrew Harnik)
President Joe Biden speaks while meeting with an instructor and an apprentice in a classroom at the IBEW / NECA Electrical Training Center in Cincinnati on July 21. (Andrew Harnik)

President Joe Biden on Thursday said he was taking the first step toward inclusion of the COVID-19 vaccine on a list of mandatory inoculations for military members.

“Since many vaccinations are required for active-duty military today, I’m asking the Defense Department to look into how and when they will add COVID-19 to the list of vaccinations our armed forces must get,” Biden said in an address from the White House.

“Our men and women in uniform, who protect this country from grave threats, must be protected as much as possible from getting COVID-19,” Biden continued. “I think this is particularly important because our troops serve in places throughout the world. Many where vaccination rates are low and disease is prevalent.”

Biden announced the directive along with other measures intended to encourage federal workers to get vaccinated. He also announced compensation for businesses that gave employees time off to receive vaccinations themselves or get loved ones vaccinated.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers criticized vaccination mandates in a statement released Thursday afternoon after Biden spoke. A spokesman confirmed that her criticism included mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for members of the military.

“Vaccine mandates will not build trust in the vaccine, and neither will the CDC’s mask mandate based on secret, unpublished, and questionable data,” McMorris Rodgers said in a statement. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance that recommended mask-wearing for vaccinated people in areas of high transmission earlier this week, but it is local governments that have issued mandates based on that recommendation.

“All these actions only create a dangerous level of resentment toward a government that is acting like an authoritarian regime seizing more command and control in our lives and health care decisions,” McMorris Rodgers continued, adding that a vaccination decision should be made by an individual in consultation with their doctor.

Biden has directed his team to take steps to apply similar requirements to all federal contractors, such as those working on clean-up at the Hanford nuclear site.

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