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US military moves ahead with vaccine mandate for all service members

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The US Defense Department announced on Monday that it is moving ahead with requiring full vaccination of all service members, now that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

That approval, given on Monday, was the go-ahead the Pentagon had been waiting for to make the vaccine mandatory for its 1.4 million active-duty service members.

“We’re preparing the guidance to the force right now,” spokesman John Kirby told reporters. “The actual completion date of it, in other words how fast we want to see it done, we’re working through that guidance right now.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said earlier this month that the goal was to see the vaccine mandate in place by mid-September, pending full FDA approval, but that there would be exemptions that would be considered.

The Pfizer vaccine rolled out of the company’s world Michigan headquarters last December, but until now, had been granted only an emergency use authorization.

Monday’s announcement from the FDA gives full approval for anyone over the age of 16 to get the shot, while use among those age 12-16 still falls under the emergency use authorization.

Pfizer said it after months of testing, it came to the conclusion that its vaccine is 91% effective in preventing a COVID-19 infection, although US health officials say booster shots will likely be needed eight months after an individual completes the two-shot regimen.

The FDA is also still working to give full approval to the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

The Pentagon is likely the first of many organizations, businesses, and venues that are expected to make the vaccines mandatory, now that the FDA has given its full approval to the vaccine – mandates many public experts see as important to wage a better fight against the virus.

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