The Defense Department on Thursday called on military leaders to take steps to ramp up COVID-19 vaccination rates among service members.
“The department has redoubled its efforts to encourage everyone to get vaccinated,” acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Terry Adirim told reporters at the Pentagon following the release of a memo on the new push.
The document is meant to reaffirm the importance of vaccination and highlight tools to encourage military members to get the shot, she said.
The memo focuses on four specific areas: Increasing the vaccine’s accessibility, educating personnel on the shot, leveraging policies such as extra time off to encourage vaccination and acknowledging and addressing any concerns.
“The threat of COVID-19 to our Nation and our allies and partners has not yet abated. ... We must continue to do all we can to operate safely and effectively in a COVID-19 environment for the foreseeable future,” said the memo, which was signed by Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks and Joints Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. John Hyten.
"This memorandum reaffirms our support for initiatives to increase vaccination acceptance among all Service members."
More than 1.3 million service members are partially or fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the latest Department of Defense numbers.
Broken down, the numbers mean 58 percent active duty service members have had at least one dose, with 44 percent fully vaccinated, Adirim said.
Those percentages are an improvement from one month ago, when only 37 percent had received at least one dose, “so we’re making good steady progress,” she added.
But despite the Pentagon last month making all Defense personnel and their beneficiaries eligible to receive a vaccine, it is still struggling to convince thousands of military members to get the shot.
Because the department does not track how many of its personnel reject the vaccine, it’s difficult to pinpoint why troops, sailors and airmen are declining.
President BidenJoe BidenTrump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race On The Money: Democrats get to the hard part Health Care — GOP attorneys general warn of legal battle over Biden's vaccine mandate MORE late last month would not dismiss the possibility of requiring all service members to get the vaccine once it is fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but says the decision is a “tough call,” and said he was “going to leave that to the military.”