The Department of Defense on Tuesday circulated a memo rescinding the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for the military.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin indicated that his agency still encouraged vaccination and touted its success in getting servicemembers to get inoculated.

“The Department has made COVID-19 vaccination as easy and convenient as possible, resulting in vaccines administered to over two million Service members and 96 percent of the Force—Active and Reserve—being fully vaccinated. Vaccination enhances operational readiness and protects the Force,” Austin wrote, per Defense One.

Congress included the repeal of the Pentagon’s mandate in the National Defense Authorization Act last year, over the objections of both Austin and President Joe Biden, who signed it nonetheless.

In a December press guidance, Austin announced his intent to abide by the congressional order and confirmed that 8,123 service members had been discharged for refusing the vaccine. He did, however, say that none had received an “other than honorable” discharge solely on that basis.

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