News | Sept. 1, 2021

Department of Defense Mandates COVID-19 Vaccinations for Service Members

By TRICARE Communications

On Aug. 24, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III issued a memo directing mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for all uniformed service members. The news from the Department of Defense (DoD) comes after careful consultation with medical experts on ways to protect the health and readiness of the force during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
“We are confident the men and women of our military—even the ones who have been hesitant—will comply with this requirement, just as they do when given any other mission-essential order,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III.
 
With the news of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, you may have questions. Here are some answers about how this may impact you.
 
Q: Why is the DoD mandating the COVID-19 vaccine now?
A: The virus that causes COVID-19 continues to change through mutation. This has caused new variants of the virus, including the Delta variant, to appear in places around the world. The Delta variant has led to a rise in COVID-19 cases. And health experts warn that it’s more contagious and causes a more severe illness than other coronavirus variants. Because of these concerns, the DoD believes that vaccination is the best way to protect the health and well-being of service members. Currently, there are three vaccines authorized and recommended in the U.S. to protect people from COVID-19. The Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine is the first to receive full approval from the Food and Drug Administration to vaccinate those who are age 16 and older.
 
Q: Does the COVID-19 vaccine mandate apply to me?
A: If you’re an active duty service member (ADSM) or National Guard or Reserve member, you’re required to get the COVID-19 vaccine as part of a readiness requirement, unless you have a medical or administrative exemption. Keep in mind, each service has its own guidance and procedures for requesting exemptions. Service members who are actively participating in COVID-19 clinical trials are also exempt from mandatory vaccination.
 
Q: Are there enough vaccines available to meet the demand?
A: Yes. The DoD has enough vaccine supply to vaccinate remaining unvaccinated service members. That means whether you’re a service member stationed stateside or overseas, there will be a COVID-19 vaccine available for you.
 
Q: Can service members get the vaccine from a non-DoD provider?
A: Yes. If you haven’t gotten the COVID-19 vaccine yet, you do have the option to receive it outside of the DoD. Your options for getting the vaccine include:  
Are you an active duty family member, retiree, or another TRICARE beneficiary? If so, you can use these vaccination options as well.
 
Remember, the COVID-19 vaccine is free. But if you aren’t on active duty, you may have a cost for an office visit when seeing a civilian provider, or if you need follow-on care. If you do get the vaccine outside of the DoD, make sure you provide your primary care manager (PCM) with a copy of your vaccine card to show proof of your vaccination. This will also help your PCM enter your vaccination status into your medical record.
 
As you follow the DoD vaccine mandate, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends that you protect yourself and others by practicing these healthy habits:
  • Wear a mask
  • Stay 6 feet away from others
  • Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces
  • Wash your hands often
  • Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces daily
  • Monitor your health daily
 
Everyone has a role to play in stopping the spread of the virus. Hear Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael L. Gragg’s personal story and why he’s urging you to take the necessary precautions.
 
Want to learn more about the DoD COVID-19 vaccine mandate? You can visit Defense.gov. To find COVID-19 resources, go to TRICARE COVID Guidance.

At the time of posting, this information is current. Visit www.cdc.gov or TRICARE COVID Guidance for the most current COVID-19 information.
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