Travel restrictions at 95% of U.S. military installations have been eased, the Defense Department reported on Wednesday. Photo by MSgt. Holly Roberts-Davis/U.S. Air Force
July 21 (UPI) -- With travel restrictions lifted at 95% of U.S. military installations, service members can now get COVID-19 vaccinations without pre-authorization.
Restrictions have been lifted at 219 of 230 worldwide installations, with the majority of those not meeting the restrictions criteria in Japan, a list released by the Defense Department on Tuesday indicates.
Additionally, the Tricare Operations Manual, which identifies procedures of military health providers, was updated this week to allow all active-duty service members to obtain vaccinations without the requirement of pre-authorization, a process similar to vaccinating those in the civilian sector.
The Defense Department's weekly COVID-19 status report on Wednesday said that 4.45 million doses of the vaccination have been administered to service members and eligible beneficiaries, noting that 228,816 service members have been partially vaccinated and more than 1 million are fully vaccinated.
Last week Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced last week that 70% of military personnel received at least one dose of the vaccine, with 62% fully vaccinated with two inoculations, an improvement over the figure of 68.8% released on July 6.
The Pentagon's original goal, announced in March, included vaccination of the complete force by mid-July, a figure amended in April by Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Scott Dingle, who suggested that the Army could vaccinate 80% of its active-duty force by July 4.
Vaccination rates have slowed in the U.S. military, similar to that in the nation's civilian sector. Having 70% of Americans with at least one vaccination by July 4 was a goal of President Joe Biden, but it fell short by several million.
Because the COVID-19 vaccine has only an emergency use authorization, the Pentagon cannot obligate its service members to receive the vaccine.
Full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could allow the Pentagon to change its policy.
"Should the FDA approve it, then I am certain that Pentagon leadership will take a look at what our options are going forward, including the potential option of making mandatory," Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said on July 7.