Pentagon Mandates COVID-19 Vaccine After Regulators Approve Pfizer’s Shot

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.
August 23, 2021 Updated: August 23, 2021

The Food and Drug Administration’s full approval of the Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Aug. 23 has set off a new round of vaccine mandates.

The decision triggered the U.S. military to make the shot mandatory, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington.

“We’re going to move forward making that vaccine mandatory. We’re preparing the guidance to the force right now,” he said during a press briefing.

Service members will be required to get the Pfizer vaccine. Two other vaccines in the United States are being administered under an emergency use authorization.

The Pentagon mandate was announced last month but was put off because no vaccine had been approved by drug regulators. Military officials haven’t yet determined by what date service members will need to be vaccinated.

Service members can apply for religious or medical exemptions, officials said earlier this month.

New York City officials also announced shortly after the approval was made public that all school staffers, including principals and custodians, must get at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose by Sept. 27. That mandate affects approximately 148,000 workers.

Workers can choose not to get vaccinated, but if they do, they must be tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis.

“We know this is going to help ensure that everyone is safe,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said at City Hall.

Bargaining would start immediately with labor unions on the mandate, he said.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the largest labor union in the city, said in a statement that most teachers are already vaccinated.

“While the city is asserting its legal authority to establish this mandate, there are many implementation details, including provisions for medical exceptions, that by law must be negotiated with the UFT and other unions, and if necessary, resolved by arbitration,” he said in a statement.

New York previously mandated vaccines for entering gyms and restaurants.

New Jersey announced a mandate for educators as well on Aug. 23, with Gov. Phil Murphy telling pre-K to 12th-grade teachers and other staffers, as well as state employees, to get vaccinated or undergo testing each week.

Epoch Times Photo
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks to the media in New York City, on Aug. 3, 2021. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

While a number of cities, schools, and businesses have already imposed vaccine mandates, others had indicated a reluctance to do so until one or more of the shots were approved.

“You get the FDA to say it’s final, it’s approved, and I can guarantee you all the places I’m involved in, if you don’t get vaccinated, you will get fired,” Ken Langone, a billionaire who co-founded Home Depot, said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” last month. Mandating the shots prior to approval risked litigation, he said.

Regulators say drugs must meet a higher efficacy and safety bar to get approved versus receiving emergency use authorization, which the three vaccines got months ago.

Health officials have said approval of a vaccine would lead to more mandates.

“Organizations, enterprises, universities, colleges that have been reluctant to mandate at the local level will feel much more confident,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, a chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said this month.

“They can say, ‘If you want to come to this college or this university, you’ve got to get vaccinated. If you want to work in this plant, you have to get vaccinated. If you want to work in this enterprise, you’ve got to get vaccinated. If you want to work in this hospital, you’ve got to get vaccinated.’”

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.