© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Pentagon is seen from the air in Washington, U.S., March 3, 2022, more than a week after Russia invaded Ukraine. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo
(Reuters) -The Pentagon on Tuesday rescinded a controversial Biden administration mandate requiring that all members of the U.S. armed forces be vaccinated against COVID-19.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a memo that military leaders still encouraged all service members to get vaccinated and boosted but would no longer discharge those who refuse on religious, administrative or medical grounds.
“The military departments will update the records of such individuals to remove any adverse actions solely associated with denials of such requests, including letters of reprimand,” Austin said.
Biden in August 2021 ordered all 1.3 million active members of the U.S. armed forces to get vaccinated against COVID-19 over the objections of Republicans. Military officials faced unanticipated resistance among troops to mandatory vaccines.
Republicans pressed for Biden to rescind the mandate as part of a compromise to pass the National Defense Authorization Act that the president signed in December.
According to Defense Department data, 3,717 Marines, 1,816 soldiers and 2,064 sailors have since been discharged for refusing to get vaccinated.