The Pentagon is urging military service leaders and installation commanders to double up efforts encouraging service members to get COVID-19 vaccinations.

“Vaccination enhances operational readiness and protects the force, DOD said in a Thursday memo signed by Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. John Hyten. “We thank all our service members and other DOD personnel who have chosen to get vaccinated and continue to encourage their fellow service members, families, friends, peers, and community to do so as well.”

The memo encouraged personnel policies such as time off to get a shot and recover from any side effects and to conduct individual outreach.

“When we engage service members at an individual level using trusted messengers – particularly peers, medical personnel, and first-line leaders – who acknowledge concerns in a nonjudgmental way and address questions, we know that we can increase vaccination rates, one individual at a time.”

About 58% of active duty service members have had at least one dose, with 44% fully vaccinated. DOD sees that as “good, steady progress” over the past month, when only 37% had gotten at least one dose, a spokesperson said, according to The Hill.

National Guard photo by A. Danielle Thomas

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