May 17, 2022

President Joe Biden said that he is not ruling out the requirement of vaccines on all U.S. troops. The federal regulators, the Food and Drug Administration, released the approval and final clearance on the COVID-19 vaccine. Still, Biden cautioned that such a decision on mandatory vaccine would be a “tough call”.

“I don’t know. I’m going to leave that to the military,” Biden said to NBC News’ Craig Melvin in an interview. The statement was the response to a question on whether he would mandate the vaccine for U.S. service members once the Food and Drug Administration fully approves it.

“I’m not saying I won’t. I think you’re going to see more and more of them getting it. And I think it’s going to be a tough call as to whether or not they should be required to have to get it in the military because you’re in such close proximity with other military personnel — whether you’re in a quarter, where you’re all sleeping, or whether you’re out in maneuvers.” Biden said.

The comments from the President were solicited after the Pentagon has sounded the alarm about the reports that some service members are refusing the vaccination. According to congressional testimony from military officials in February, around one-third of troops declined to take the shot. The Pentagon reported that close to 40 percent of Marines offered the vaccine turned it down early this month.

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Several Democratic congressmen asked that Biden make the vaccine a requirement for service members. At the same time, the Pentagon press secretary John Kirby confirmed the military’s top leadership was weighing on a mandatory vaccination decision. The skepticism of the vaccine within the military’s ranks is similar to the hesitancy experienced by a segment of the civilian population who does not want to be vaccinated. The U.S. vaccine supply has become available to all American adults 16 and older and begins to outpace demand.

“Obviously, we’re thinking about what happens when they become FDA-approved. It would change the character of the decision-making process, about whether they could be mandatory or voluntary. But I don’t want to get ahead of that process right now.” Kirby told reporters.