Amid federal worker vaccine mandates announced by President Joe Biden, the White House is asking the Pentagon "to look into how and when" the COVID-19 vaccination will be mandated for members of the military.
At a briefing before reporters Thursday, Biden said the unvaccinated "present a problem" for public health.
"It's still a question the federal government can mandate the whole country [to be vaccinated]," Biden told reporters. "I don't know that yet."
Biden "is directing the Department of Defense to look into how and when they will add COVID-19 vaccination to the list of required vaccinations for members of the military," according to a White House fact sheet released before the briefing. "This is particularly important because our troops serve in places throughout the world — many where vaccination rates are low and disease is prevalent."
The Department of Veterans Affairs "took the common-sense and important step" of requiring their healthcare providers and personnel to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 earlier this week.
"Too many veterans have already lost their lives to this virus, and veterans and their families deserve nothing less than us doing everything we can to protect their health," the fact sheet continued. "The public health, healthcare, and medical community are unified in support of these actions — on Monday, over 50 leading healthcare societies and organizations called for all healthcare and long-term care employers to require their workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine."
At the end of the media session, Biden had a contentious exchange with a White House correspondent from Fox News who asked the president why he is backing off his claim that vaccination would keep Americans from being required to wear a mask.
Biden heatedly responded that the delta variant and America's unvaccinated have altered that view among public health experts.
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