COVID-19 vaccine
COVID-19 vaccineiStock

The Pentagon on Tuesday formally rescinded its COVID-19 vaccination mandate, dropping the requirement for the vaccine across the US military over a year after it was first put in place, The Hill reported, citing a new memo signed by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

The memo was expected after the annual defense policy bill, signed into law by President Biden on December 23, gave the Defense Department 30 days to pull the mandate.

Even with the requirement gone, however, the Department of Defense “will continue to promote and encourage COVID-19 vaccination for all service members,” Austin said in the memo, adding, “Vaccination enhances operational readiness and protects the force.”

In August of 2021, the Pentagon announced it would require service members to receive the COVID-19 vaccine after the Pfizer vaccine received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In December of that year, the US Air Force discharged 27 service members for refusing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, making them the first active-duty troops to have been removed for declining the vaccine.

The rule received heavy pushback from Republican lawmakers and was the subject of several lawsuits. It was eventually dismantled after a rescission requirement was included in the fiscal year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act

Ahead of the memo’s release, the US military had stopped all related punishments for refusing the shot, including discharging troops from the service, noted The Hill.