(WETM) – The Food & Drug Administration fully authorized the Pfizer vaccine for Americans 16 and older. This two-dose vaccine is the first of its kind to be fully approved in the United States.
Local health departments in the Twin Tiers are preparing for a shift in vaccine demand. Chemung County and Steuben County Public Health said there are regional and state procedures to acquire more doses if needed, but both departments say there is enough right now for anyone who wants the vaccine.
“We do have less Pfizer than Moderna, but it’s not a shortage. I hope to see an increased demand for that [Pfizer] as a result of the FDA approval,” Darlene Smith, Steuben County Public Health director, added.
Storing the Pfizer shots is the only challenge because special refrigeration is required.
“The only issue has been coordinating around that ultra-low storage and we’ve got a system in place for that. We feel pretty confident in our ability to continue to offer that to the community,” Chemung County Public Health Director Pete Buzzetti said.
The FDA has come under fire because the review process took 107 days. Many Americans were eager for it to be approved sooner.
“You can’t really have a thorough review process that the public requires that is done in a hurry,” Dr. John Moore, professor at Weill Cornell Medicine, told 18 News.
While the vaccine is only approved for those 16 and older, this is a step forward according to Federal officials.
The approval could boost the vaccination campaign by convincing more unvaccinated Americans that Pfizer’s shot is safe and effective and also make officials more comfortable implementing vaccine mandates.
Vaccine hesitancy has been a major hurdle to the White House’s goal of getting all eligible Americans vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“While millions of people have already safely received COVID-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated. Today’s milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S.”Acting Commissioner Janey Woodcock, M.D.
Several leading health experts took to Twitter to react to the news. Former Surgeon General Jerome Adams applauded the FDA Monday and Dr. Ashish Jha of Brown University said more vaccine mandates could follow the approval.
The Pentagon required vaccines for all service members on the same day New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio required shots for all teachers.
“This will make it a lot easier for organizations, including the healthcare organizations to mandate vaccination,” Dr. Ed Walsh, professor at the University of Rochester, said.
President Joe Biden praised the move by the FDA adding that he hopes this allows more businesses to require COVID-19 vaccines.
“With today’s full FDA approval, there’s another good reason to get vaccinated,” he said during remarks Monday.
U.S. vaccinations bottomed out in July. As the delta variant fills hospital beds, shots are on the rise again — with a million a day given Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Just over half of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated with one of the country’s three options, from Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson.
The U.S. is the first country to fully approve the shot, according to Pfizer, and CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement he hoped the decision “will help increase confidence in our vaccine, as vaccination remains the best tool we have to help protect lives.”
Full approval of Pfizer’s shot now makes it easier for physicians to prescribe a third booster shot to people who could benefit from an additional dose.
The FDA already is allowing the emergency use of the third dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine for people with severely weakened immune systems, such as organ transplant recipients who don’t respond as strongly to the usual two shots. For everyone else who got those vaccinations, the Biden administration is planning ahead for booster starting in the fall — if the FDA and CDC agree.
Some experts, including at the World Health Organization, say there is not yet enough data to be certain that boosters are needed.
Pfizer’s vaccine was authorized for emergency use in December and more than 203 million people in the United States have so far received it. The Pentagon said Monday that it will issue guidance to make vaccines mandatory for the military now that the Pfizer vaccine is approved.