The Department of Defense has issued new guidance on COVID-19 vaccination for U.S. troops, in which the service members will be highly encouraged, but not required, to get the booster shots.

“All DoD personnel are strongly encouraged to receive the booster dose to protect themselves against COVID-19,” the department said in the guidance released on Tuesday, Dec. 28.

“Individuals 18 years of age or older, who completed a primary vaccination series with an mRNA vaccine (i.e., Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty or Moderna) at least six months ago, and those who received a Johnson & Johnson shot at least two months ago, are eligible for a booster dose,” the department said.

However, the service members are still required to get the first two doses of COVID-19 vaccines, according to a confirmation from the Pentagon to Fox News.

In an announcement in August, the Department of Defense said it started to order all service members, including those in the reserve components, to get COVID-19 vaccines.

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby reaffirmed at a press briefing earlier in December that the vaccination is “mandatory now.”

“The Secretary [Lloyd Austin] has made it clear that this is a lawful order to receive this vaccine,” Kirby said.

The vaccinations deadline has passed, and more than 96% of service members have obeyed the order, according to 13 News Now.

But there were still thousands of hold-outs, making vaccine compliance a challenge for U.S. military leaders.

About 35,000 members have not complied with the order, including those from the Army, Marines, Air Force, Space Force, and the Navy.

“The secretary’s expectation is 100% vaccination, that’s what he wants to see,” Kirby said, stressing the need to get every troop vaccinated.

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