WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. military has no data to back up claims by top Republicans in Congress that the Pentagon’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate is hurting recruiting, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Tuesday.
“I’ve not seen any hard data that directly links the COVID mandate to an affect on our recruiting,” Austin told a news conference.
Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who is vying to become speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and other Republicans are pushing the Biden administration to lift the American military’s mandate requiring troops to be vaccinated against COVID, arguing it hurts recruiting.
The White House and the Pentagon have resisted that pressure so far.
Still, the U.S. military has faced unanticipated resistance among a minority of troops to getting vaccinated – something U.S. defense officials say is the result of misinformation about the safety of the vaccine.
According to Defense Department data, 3,717 Marines, 1,816 soldiers and 2,064 sailors have been discharged for refusing to get vaccinated.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot)