Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III issued a memorandum on August 25, 2021, mandating immediate and full COVID-19 vaccines for all members of the United States Armed Forces, including the Ready Reserve and National Guard. The memorandum began, “To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force.” The Secretary of Defense noted that mandatory vaccines is a familiar requirement for all Service members and urged the imposition of ambitious timelines for implementation.

The mandatory vaccination will only utilize FDA-approved vaccines. But “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.” Likewise, any administrative or other exemptions established in the Military Department policy are also applicable. The memorandum concluded with words of encouragement to all members of the Armed Forces: “Our vaccination of the Force will save lives.”

Norton Rose Fulbright lawyers will continue to provide relevant updates for healthcare providers on the Health Law Pulse during the COVID-19 public health crisis.