The Department of Defense is considering requiring military members to receive a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“There are active discussions here in the department at the policy level about booster shots and whether or not to make those mandatory,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters at a press conference Friday. “There have been no final decisions made about that.”
If a booster vaccine mandate were to be implemented, “[the Department of Defense] will clearly communicate that and be transparent about it,” Kirby said, adding that the Pentagon urges DoD employees to get their boosters in the meantime.
The Defense Department issued a mandate in August requiring military members to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. According to The Hill, about 96% of active duty service members have at least one dose of the vaccine, and 90% are fully vaccinated. Including the National Guard and Reserves, the armed forces have a vaccination rate of about 74%.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin previously announced that members of the National Guard would need to be fully vaccinated in order to participate in the necessary drills and training they need to maintain their status as Guardsmen. The Daily Wire reported:
In an internal memo to leaders of the armed forces, according to the Associated Press, Austin spelled out the new policy, directing leaders of the four service branches to publish guidance dealing with men and women serving in the National Guard who refuse the vaccine. “Vaccination is essential to the health and readiness of the force,” Austin said.
The vaccine requirement is part of the military’s medical readiness requirements, the AP reported. All members of the armed services are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, unless they receive an exemption for medical or other reasons.
Austin directed the service leaders to publish their guidance by next week.
National Guard members are reserve members of the armed forces under the auspices of the federal government, but their funding, and by extension, pay, come from separate sources, the AP notes. Under their normal state active duty, Guardsmen report to the governor of their state and are funded and paid by the state. However, when they report for scheduled training, as they must do at certain times of the year under federal law, or are responding to federally declared emergencies, they operate under the authority of the state but are paid by the federal government, a procedure called Title 32 status. This is also different from Title 10 status, which is only for when Guardsmen are called into federal active duty, in which case they both report to and are paid by the federal government.
Austin wrote in the memo that Guardsmen who do not get vaccinated will be disallowed from participating in training. As a result, those members will also not receive pay. They will also not receive credit towards their military benefits, including retirement benefits.
The Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors was blocked by a federal judge, as previously reported by the Daily Wire. The U.S. Senate also voted to repeal the administration’s mandate for private companies, after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the mandate. The Sixth Circuit Court is currently reviewing the mandate in a lawsuit brought by the Daily Wire and numerous companies.