Two reasons why Monday’s vaccine news from the United States is so important.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration used the word “milestone” twice in one paragraph in Monday’s announcement. President Joe Biden used the same word, according to CNN: “Today we have reached another milestone, a key milestone, in our fight against COVID.”
That’s how important they believe the news is.
And what is this news? It’s that the FDA has given full approval to a COVID-19 vaccine for the first time. Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine was approved for emergency use in December; the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines received similar allowances. Now the first of these companies has been given the full green light.
The FDA collected data from 41,000 people before it came to a decision. The vaccine is 91% effective against COVID-19, according to their study. The Pfizer vaccine will now be marketed in the U.S. under the name Comirnaty, the FDA reports.
The news has attracted a lot of attention for two main reasons:
1. Skeptics have less reason to hesitate.
About 55% of the American population is fully vaccinated. The vaccine has been available for months now to everyone over 12 years of age who wants it. However, millions have held back.
For a while, the U.S. had a big lead over almost all other countries in the world. Vaccination was happening at a fast pace, but then it started to go slower and slower. On July 7, Norway passed the U.S. in percentage of population who had received a first vaccine dose. Now Norway has a lead of about 10 percentage points; 70% have received the first dose compared to 60% in the U.S., according to Our World in Data.
Now maybe more skeptics in America will be convinced. A poll of vaccine skeptics in June showed that nearly half of participants would be more open to getting the vaccine if it were fully approved by the FDA. Other polls have shown similar results.
The FDA hopes that Monday’s announcement will help more people to trust that the vaccine is safe.
“Today’s milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S.,” Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D., wrote in the press release.
“If you are one of the millions of Americans who said they will not get the shot until it has full and final approval of the FDA, it has now happened. The moment you’ve been waiting for is here, it’s time for you to go get your vaccination, and get it today,” Biden said.
Monday’s approval applies to those who are 16 years of age and up. However, after they have collected the necessary numbers, the plan is to give the same approval for children between 12 and 15 years old as well.
A corresponding approval for the Moderna vaccine could also be right around the corner. Tom Frieden, former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said to Politico that it’s likely just timing and paperwork that stand in the way. Moderna applied for full approval in June. Johnson & Johnson has said that it will apply for the same approval later this year.
2. Now come the vaccine mandates.
There are 1.3 million people on active U.S. military duty. That’s how many people are affected by the announcement from the Department of Defense on Monday afternoon. All of them will now be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine. The mandate is a direct consequence of the FDA approval.
Even before the approval, similar requirements had started to come from employers in both the government and private sectors all over the United States. Now more are following suit.
In some places, it’s already happened. In both the states of New York and Washington, the government has given teachers and other employees in the education sector a mandate to get vaccinated before they can come to work.
On Monday, Biden asked more businesses to introduce vaccine requirements, Politico wrote.
“It only makes sense to require a vaccine to stop the spread of COVID-19,” the president said.
Earlier, California and New York City introduced mandatory vaccination for everyone working in the government sector, such as teachers, nurses, police, and fire and rescue workers.