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New law ends COVID-19 vaccine mandate for US troops

WASHINGTON (AP) – United States (US) military forces will no longer be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine, after the mandate was lifted under an USD858 billion defence spending bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden.

On Friday, the Pentagon said that in the meantime the military services would pause any personnel actions, such as discharging troops who refused the shot and all troops would still be encouraged to get vaccinated and boosted.

Biden had opposed the provision, agreeing with Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin that lifting the mandate was not in the military’s best interests. But he ultimately accepted GOP demands to win passage of the legislation.

The issue forced more than 8,400 troops out of the military for refusing to obey a lawful order when they declined to get the vaccine.

Austin, who instituted the mandate last August was staunch in his desire to maintain the mandate insisting that the vaccine was necessary to protect the military force.

Roughly 99 per cent of active-duty troops in the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps had gotten the vaccine, and 98 per cent of the Army. The Guard and Reserve rates are lower, but are more than 90 per cent.

An army personnel receives the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, south of Seattle. PHOTO: AP