WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWTI) – Over 800,000 U.S. service members will now be required to receive the COVID vaccine.

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin issued a memorandum, mandating the COVID vaccine for all Servicemembers. Austin stated that this mandate is to help strengthen to U.S. Military force.

“To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force,” Secretary Austin said in the memo. “After careful consultation with medical experts and military leadership, and with the support of the President, I have determined that mandatory vaccination against the coronavirus disease 2019 is necessary to protect the Force and defend the American people.”

Specifically, the memo directed all Military Department Secretaries to begin fully vaccination of all members of the Armed Forces under DoD authority on active duty, or in the Ready Reserve, to receive the vaccine. Service members will be considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the second dose of a two-dose COVID vaccine, or two weeks after receiving a single dose of a one-dose vaccine.

This is following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s full authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The DoD’s vaccine mandate will only use COVID vaccines that receive full licensure from the FDA.

However, those who have received vaccines listed under FDA Emergency Use Authorization or World Health Organization Emergency Use listing, in accordance with applicable dose requirements, prior to, or after the establishment of the DoD’s new policy, will still be considered fully vaccinated.

The Department of Defense’s COVID vaccine mandate falls under the DoD Instruction 620.02, DoD Immunization Program, which was established on July 23, 2019.