CNN obtained a copy of the letter, which was sent Wednesday by a congressional aide.
Currently, the Department of Defense cannot make vaccines mandatory because they have only been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use. A resignation by the president could circumvent that rule.
Seven Democratic members of Congress signed the letter, including House Rules Committee Chairman, Rep. James McGovern, and House Armed Services Committee members, Rep. Jimmy Panetta, Rep. Marilyn Strickland, Rep. Sara Jacobs. and Representative Marc Veasey. Representative Panetta is the son of former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Representative Cindy Axne and Representative Jahana Hayes, who are not on the House Armed Services Committee, also signed the letter.
“I think the true participation rate right now would probably be around 50 percent,” a military health care source said of the figures at a military base of about 40,000 active duty soldiers. The source spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the vaccines.
The letter says that “misinformation and skepticism about vaccines” are influencing service members not to get vaccinated. He acknowledges that the Pentagon has “made admirable efforts to educate service members on the safety and efficacy” of vaccines, but says those measures have been “outweighed by misinformation dominating social media.”
The Department of Defense has approximately 2.2 million service members operating around the world. Last year, the military experienced a handful of high-profile outbreaks, including one aboard an aircraft carrier deployed to the Pacific.
Last April, a Covid-19 outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt spread to more than 20% of the crew aboard the aircraft carrier and led to the eventual removal of the ship’s captain. In November, more than 100 US military installations around the world implemented some form of stricter sanitary measures to restrict the spread of the coronavirus.
“We ask that you promptly issue this waiver to give DOD the authority it needs to ensure preparedness for current and future threats,” the letter says.
CNN’s Oren Liebermann contributed to this report.