With Full FDA Approval, All Military Servicemembers Will Be Vaccinated For COVID-19

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Aug 24, 2021

On Monday, the FDA granted complete General Use Authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The decision means that orders issued by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that all United States military service members must get inoculated against COVID-19 will go into effect “immediately.”

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers is one of the largest labor unions within the Defense and Aerospace industry. Members of the IAMAW build and maintain a wide range of military hardware, including warships, planes, and armored vehicles.

“I will seek the President’s approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September,” Secretary Austin wrote in a memo to the Department of Defense issued earlier this month. “Or immediately upon the U.S. Food and Drug Agency (FDA) licensure, whichever comes first.”

The orders extend to all active-duty and national guard service members and all civilian employees of the Department of Defense. Companies who work on behalf of the Defense Department will also need to prove their employees are vaccinated before being awarded contracts.

In all, the orders ensure that the Nation’s 1.3 million military service members and 400 thousand members of the National Guard are protected from COVID-19.

“To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force. I strongly encourage all DoD military and civilian personnel – as well as contractor personnel – to get vaccinated now,” Secretary Austin wrote. Members of the Armed Forces should “not to wait for the mandate,” he continued.

A timeline for when the vaccinations would be completed is expected to be released later this week.

The decision by the FDA to grant General Use Authorization to the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is expected to set off a tidal wave of employer vaccine requirements. According to a USA Today / Ipsos poll released this week, 61% of Americans support COVID vaccine requirements. A substantial majority of respondents, 72%, say that mask mandates are a “matter of health and safety,” and are not infringements of personal liberty. Another 68% voiced support for businesses that choose to deny service to unvaccinated customers.

According to the Pentagon, 76% of the Armed Forces are partially vaccinated already, and 68% are fully vaccinated. A breakdown by branch shows that the US Marine Corp is 57% fully vaccinated, along with 65% of active-duty soldiers in the Army. In the Air Force, 62% of Airmen are fully vaccinated. The Navy is the most well-protected, with 76% of active duty Sailors fully immunized against COVID-19.

Military leaders have compared illnesses related to COVID-19 to other diseases that have weakened military readiness, such as malaria and smallpox. Since the founding of the Nation, disease has routinely killed more military personnel than enemy soldiers. In 1776, then-General George Washington ordered troops under his command to be vaccinated against smallpox. Although rare in the U.S. today, smallpox took a nightmarish toll on Washington’s Army. Smallpox causes vomiting and deep, painful ulcers in the mouth and skin, eventually leading to death in some cases. A staggering 90% of Washington’s military casualties resulted from smallpox. Since Washington’s vaccine mandates, the U.S. military has considered them a tool that gives Service Members a strategic advantage over armies that do not require vaccines.

Many civilian companies are reaching the same conclusion as the U.S. Military. A growing number of private companies now require employee vaccinations, expecting a strategic advantage over competitors. COVID-related employee outages and health care costs are a potentially crushing expense for companies and a significant drag on worker productivity. Companies such as United Airlines, McDonald’s, Citigroup, among many others, now require vaccinations that they hope will keep critical staff healthy and on the frontlines of the economy. 

 

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