Seen in this file photo is a gate of the US base Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)
WASHINGTON -- Getting COVID-19 vaccine still remains voluntary for US forces, including those stationed in South Korea, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday, despite an ongoing surge in infection cases in South Korea.
John Kirby also said there currently are no plans to require mandatory vaccination for any US troops.
The spokesman said there was "no change to our policy on voluntary vaccinations" when asked if the Defense Department may enforce mandatory vaccination in light of a recent rise in infection cases among US. Forces Korea (USFK).
The spokesman explained the Defense Department is not considering mandatory vaccination for troops partly because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to officially approve COVID-19 vaccines, having given approval for only emergency use.
"As I have said before, if and when these vaccines are FDA approved, the (defense) secretary will certainly want to explore additional options for vaccine delivery," he said.
US forces in Korea have recently seen a rise in the number of infection cases among its service members and other related individuals as the number of new cases in South Korea has also been on the rise, partly due to the spread of the reportedly more contagious Delta variant.
The USFK reported 10 additional infection cases on Tuesday (Seoul time), bringing its total number to 1,030.
The US has some 28,500 troops stationed on the Korean Peninsula.
"We are obviously watching the Delta variant closely as you would expect," said Kirby.
"We continue to believe that a vaccinated force is a protected force, and we are hovering very close now to 70 percent of the force having received one dose. That's encouraging, but there's more work to do and so we continue to be in the mode of encouraging troops to get vaccinated to the maximum degree, and again, we believe that's the best way forward," he added. (Yonhap)