WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will seek to order mandatory coronavirus vaccines for 1.3 million active duty American troops, even if the Food and Drug Administration has not yet issued full approval for the inoculation, administration officials said Monday.
If the F.D.A. does not approve at least the Pfizer vaccine by Sept. 15, Mr. Austin will ask to mandate the vaccines for troops without approval, the officials said. He is expected to send a memo to his staff outlining the plans later today.
The decision, essentially to wait until there is full F.D.A. approval before putting a vaccine mandate in place for troops, is the latest shift in the Biden administration’s response to the surging Delta variant.
Mr. Austin advised President Biden last week that a vaccine mandate is one of the few weapons left to try to protect troops from the virus.
But Mr. Biden balked at putting a mandate in place without full approval from the F.D.A. His caution came as a surprise to some administration officials because the president had already announced that all federal employees and on-site contractors must be vaccinated against the coronavirus, or submit to regular testing and other measures. But that requirement affected the 766,372 civilians working for the Defense Department, not active-duty service members.