Science

The FDA’s full approval for the Pfizer vaccine will raise vaccination rates in 2 critical ways

Summary List PlacementThe Food and Drug Administration has fully approved the Pfizer vaccine for use to prevent COVID-19 in people 16 and older. It can hereinafter be marketed as "Comirnaty," but I hope you will join me in continuing to call it "the Pfizer vaccine." Among people who haven't gotten the vaccine but are not resolutely opposed to ever getting it, one common talking point has been that the vaccine isn't fully approved, but only approved for emergency use, and that they wanted to see full approval before they got the shot. In many (most?) cases that argument was probably...

vaccine covid new york city

Summary List Placement

The Food and Drug Administration has fully approved the Pfizer vaccine for use to prevent COVID-19 in people 16 and older. It can hereinafter be marketed as “Comirnaty,” but I hope you will join me in continuing to call it “the Pfizer vaccine.”

Among people who haven’t gotten the vaccine but are not resolutely opposed to ever getting it, one common talking point has been that the vaccine isn’t fully approved, but only approved for emergency use, and that they wanted to see full approval before they got the shot. In many (most?) cases that argument was probably a pretext, but even if a small fraction of American adults are moved by the full approval, that could mean millions of additional people getting vaccinated.

But the more important matter is probably what the full approval means for organizations considering requiring people they deal with — students, customers, or employees — to get the vaccine.

This approval removes bureaucratic hurdles

Full FDA approval was not legally necessary for employers or educational institutions to require vaccines for their workers or students. Many have already imposed such mandates and federal-law challenges to them have failed. But for many institutions, full approval had been made into a bureaucratic hurdle, with officials saying they were waiting for the FDA in order to make their own mandate moves.

Well, now the FDA has moved. And on the same day it did so, some very large employers have announced they will proceed with full vaccine mandates with very limited exceptions, most notably the US military, but also the New York City public school system. Other employers, such as the city of San Francisco, had already announced vaccine mandates that were contingent on full FDA approval; those mandates are now being triggered. All together, this means millions of people will now be subject to a vaccine mandate if they wish to keep their jobs.

The need for full approval had also been raised by parties objecting to vaccine mandates, such as the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which complained about Tyson Foods seeking to impose a mandate on its members, saying “it is concerning that Tyson is implementing this mandate before the FDA has fully approved the vaccine.” Well, UFCW and its members now have one less reason to be concerned.

It will be impossible to tell how much effect the full FDA approval has on vaccine uptake rates. Some institutions that had been waiting for full approval to set mandates had grown impatient as the process dragged and stopped waiting. Some of the institutions moving because of the mandate would likely have gotten around to mandating pretty soon even if the FDA hadn’t acted. And people who said they were waiting for full approval can always come up with other reasons to put off vaccination.

Still, it’s a positive and welcome step.

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