WASHINGTON — Currently, troops are not mandated to take the COVID-19 vaccine because it is being administered under emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
Only fully approved vaccines can be required of service members.
"The vaccine is voluntary and we're using every avenue possible to provide information," said Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. Terry Adirim, testifying Tuesday before the Senate Appropriations Committee.
She said the Pentagon is trying to improve the numbers.
"We don't have a perfect acceptance rate," she said.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Monday that the Department of Defense has received 3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines and administered more than 2.5 million doses, reaching an effective inoculation rate of 28 percent across the force.
Dr. Adirim said improving the vaccination numbers is a top priority for the DoD.
"The most significant issue looming over all of our projections is the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic," she said. "Secretary Austin has made clear that the greatest proximate challenge to our nation's security is the threat of COVID-19."
The Navy's surgeon general said that his branch is doing comparatively well as far as compliance.
"To date, Navy sites have administered over three-quarters of a million vaccines, and over 50 percent of our Sailors and Marines have now received at least once vaccine dose," said Rear Admiral Bruce Willingham.
However, seven Democratic members of Congress have written a letter to President Joe Biden, calling on him to issue a waiver as soon as possible to make the vaccine mandatory for all military members.