Panetta calls on Biden to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for military

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that President BidenJoe BidenTrump hails Arizona Senate for audit at Phoenix rally, slams governor Republicans focus tax hike opposition on capital gains change Biden on hecklers: 'This is not a Trump rally. Let 'em holler' MORE should require all military members to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

In an interview with Greta Van Susteren set to air on Sunday, Panetta said it was a matter of “national security.”

“I frankly think the president ought to issue an order requiring everybody in the military to get a COVID-19 shot, period. That's an issue involving our national security,” Panetta, who served under the Obama administration, said. “The last damn thing you need is to have those in the military that are our warriors unable to respond to a mission because they've gotten COVID-19. There's no excuse for that.”

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“When I was in the Army, I got every shot required by the military, shots in both arms as well as everywhere else. There is no reason we should not require a COVID-19 shot for everyone in the military, period,” he continued.

More than half of all service members are at least partially vaccinated as of late June.

The Navy reported a 77 percent vaccination rate for active-duty sailors, while 70 percent of troops in the Army are vaccinated, as are 61 percent in the Air Force and 58 percent in the Marine Corps.

However, thousands of military members have still not gotten the vaccine.

The vaccines are under an emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Therefore, the Pentagon cannot legally require that all military members get the vaccine, although Biden could grant an exception to this rule.

In an interview with NBC’s Craig Melvin in April, Biden did not rule out the possibility of requiring all service members to get the vaccine once the FDA fully approves it but said it would be a “tough call.”

“I don’t know. I’m going to leave that to the military,” Biden said.

“I’m not saying I won’t. I think you’re going to see more and more of them getting it. And I think it’s going to be a tough call as to whether or not they should be required to have to get it in the military because you’re in such close proximity with other military personnel,” he later added.