Biden told congressional leaders last week that he would consider a repeal of the mandate but wanted to consult with the Pentagon first, Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., had raised the issue during the meeting.
But John Kirby, White House national security spokesman, said the president and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin both oppose scrapping the mandate.
“Secretary Austin’s been very clear that he opposes the repeal of the vaccine mandate and the president actually concurs with the secretary that he continues to believe that all Americans including those in the armed forces should be vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19,” Kirby told reporters on Monday.
“Vaccines are saving lives and including our men and women in uniform,” Kirby said. “So this remains very, very much a health and readiness issue for the force.”
Republican lawmakers have claimed that the Covid vaccine mandate is creating recruiting issues for the armed forces. But the defense secretary on Tuesday said he hasn’t seen any evidence of that.
“I’ve not seen any hard data that directly links the Covid mandate to an affect on our recruiting,” Austin told reporters at a press conference.
But Gen. David Berger, the highest ranking officer in the Marine Corps, said the vaccine mandate has created recruiting issues in certain parts of the country, particularly the South. Berger defended the mandate during a panel at the Regan National Defense Forum earlier this month as necessary to keep the force healthy. But he said misinformation has shaped many people’s views of the shots.
“There was not accurate information out early on and it was very politicized and people make decisions and they still have those same beliefs. That’s hard to work your way past really hard to work,” Berger said, according to Military.com.
The defense secretary imposed the vaccine mandate in August 2021 as the more severe delta Covid variant was swept the country. The military mandate came ahead of a broader push by the Biden administration to make sure the massive federal workforce was protected against the virus.
The overwhelming majority of Marines, soldiers and sailors have been vaccinated against Covid, but several thousand service members have been kicked out for refusing the shots. The Pentagon has discharged about 3,700 Marines, 1,800 soldiers and 2,000 sailors for not abiding by the vaccine mandate.
Article source: https://www.cnbc.com/2022/12/07/covid-congress-poised-to-repeal-pentagon-vaccine-mandate-for-troops.html