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U.S. service members will be highly encouraged to get a COVID-19 booster shot, but it will not be mandatory.
“All DoD personnel are strongly encouraged to receive the booster dose to protect themselves against COVID-19,” reads guidance released by the Department of Defense Tuesday. “Individuals 18 years of age or older, who completed a primary vaccination series with an mRNA vaccine (i.e., Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty or
Moderna) at least six months ago, and those who received a Johnson & Johnson shot at least two months ago, are eligible for a booster dose.”
While booster shots are only being encouraged, initial vaccinations will still be a requirement for service members, Fox News has confirmed.
The news comes after the Pentagon said earlier this month that there were “active discussions” within the DoD about requiring vaccine booster shots for troops, with Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby saying that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin “absolutely encourages people, if they can and if they qualify, to get the booster. But right now there is no requirement for it.”
The Pentagon announced in August that it would start requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all members of the military, including those in the reserve components.
The deadline for service members to comply with the requirement has since passed, with roughly 35,000 members of the Army, Marines, Air Force, Space Force and the Navy still not complying with the order.
“The Secretary has made it clear that this is a lawful order to receive this vaccine,” Kirby said at a press briefing earlier this month. “It’s mandatory now. “
Over 96% of service members have complied with the order, but Kirby stressed the need to get every member vaccinated.
“The secretary’s expectation is 100% vaccination, that’s what he wants to see,” Kirby said.