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SecDef mandates FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine

A member of team Homestead receives the COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination event during the August Unit Training Assembly Aug. 7, 2021 at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Allissa Landgraff)

A member of team Homestead receives the COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination event during the August Unit Training Assembly Aug. 7, 2021 at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Allissa Landgraff)

HOMESTEAD AIR RESERVE BASE. Fla. --

Since the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the Secretary of Defense has issued a memorandum mandating the vaccine for service members.

Note:  Specific implementation (how, when) for Tenth Air Force units is still forthcoming.

"Mandatory vaccinations are familiar to all of our service members, and mission-critical inoculation is almost as old as the U.S. military itself,” SecDef Lloyd Austin III said in the Aug. 24 memo. “Our administration of safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines has produced admirable results to date, and I know the Department of Defense will come together to finish the job, with urgency, professionalism, and compassion.”

The memo directs the services to immediately begin full vaccination of all members of the Armed Forces under DoD authority on active duty or in the Ready Reserve, including the National Guard, who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Service members are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after completing the second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine or two weeks after receiving a single dose of a one-dose vaccine. Those with previous COVID-19 infection are not considered fully vaccinated.

Mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 will only use COVID-19 vaccines that receive full licensure from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in accordance with FDA-approved labeling and guidance. Service members voluntarily immunized with a COVID-19 vaccine under FDA Emergency Use Authorization or World Health Organization Emergency Use Listing in accordance with applicable dose requirements prior to, or after, the establishment of this policy are considered fully vaccinated. Service members who are actively participating in COVID-19 clinical trials are exempted from mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 until the trial is complete in order to avoid invalidating such clinical trial results.

The Pfizer vaccine will now be marketed as Comirnaty and is for the prevention of COVID-19 in individuals age 16 and older. The vaccine continues to be available under emergency use authorization for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose to certain immunocompromised individuals, according to the FDA.