The Pentagon is dropping its controversial Covid-19 vaccine mandate for troops, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a memo released on Tuesday.
President Joe Biden’s defense policy bill signed before Christmas had a provision that allowed for the Hosue and Senate to repeal the administration’s vaccine mandate. “The Department will continue to promote and encourage COVD-19 vaccination for all Service members. The Department has made COVID-19 vaccination as easy and convenient as possible, resulting in vaccines administered to over two million Service members and 96 percent of the Force, active and reserve, being fully vaccinated,” the memo said.
The memo states that individuals “serving in the Armed Forces shall be separated solely on the basis of their refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccination if they sought an accommodation on religious, administrative, or medical grounds. The Military Departments will update the records of such individuals to remove any adverse actions solely associated with denials of such requests, including letters of reprimand.”
The Secretaries of the Military Departments will also “cease any ongoing reviews or current Service member religious, administrative, or medical accomodation requests” for exemptons from Covid vaccines.
The mandate was first started on August 24, 2021.
The Department of Defense says it will continue to promote and encourage COVID-19 vaccination for all service members,” Austin said in the memo. “Vaccination enhances operational readiness and protects the force.”
“All commanders have the responsibility and authority to preserve the Department’s compelling interests in mission accomplishment,” Sec. Austin wrote, adding that leaders should consider, as appropriate, the individual immunization status of personnel in making deployment, assignment, and other operational decisions, including when vaccination is required from travel to, or entry into, a foreign nation.”