More than 170 million Americans are fully vaccinated, but a medical expert expects full approval to have major impacts.
FORT WORTH, Texas – More than eight months after COVID-19 vaccinations began in the United States, the FDA is expected to give full approval for Pfizer’s vaccine as early as Monday, according to several reports.
“It was about time because we have been waiting for this for some time,” said Dr. James McDeavitt, dean of clinical affairs at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “I think it will make a difference.
McDeavitt hopes the biggest impact of the approval will be to help with vaccine hesitancy. A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 30% of adults said full approval would make them more likely to get the vaccine.
“To the FDA’s credit, I don’t think they seem to have caved in to any kind of political pressure, and I’m sure there must have been intense political pressure,” McDeavitt said. “They stuck with their process.”
More than 170 million Americans are fully immunized, according to CDC data, but all three vaccines are under emergency use authorization (EUA). 92 million Americans have received the vaccine from Pfizer. Full approval requires more time, more information, and substantial safety evidence from manufacturers.
“[Once approved], this now has the same level of approval as every drug you take the doctor prescribed, it meets the same safety requirements.
More than 13,000 Texans are hospitalized with COVID Sunday, near the winter record of just over 14,000. Intensive care beds in North Texas are shrinking, with just 53 available for an area that covers more than 8 millions of people.
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“The average age of the hospital patient has dropped from 10 to 15 years,” McDeavitt said. “It’s no longer a disease of the 60s, 70s and 80s. It is a disease of the 30, 40 and 50 years.
Full vaccine approval also opens the door to more vaccine requirements for private and public employers in Texas. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has banned vaccine requirements for vaccines under the EUA, but not full approval.
“A private daycare, which takes care of our children, is it a competitive advantage in this market to be able to say to parents: ‘Come to your daycare that 100% of our employees and employees are vaccinated’? McDeavitt said. “I think it is.”
Full approval also allows companies, like Pfizer, to start advertising its vaccine.
“As much as the ads from drug companies annoy me when I watch TV, I’m going to be very, very happy when I see ads for the coronavirus vaccine on TV,” McDeavitt said.
The same Kaiser Family Foundation study found that 14% of adults said they definitely would not get the shot, a number that has not changed since vaccinations began in December. 10% of Americans said they would wait and see. McDeavitt points out that there has never been a vaccine where a serious side effect was discovered more than two months after the start of the vaccination.
Moderna’s vaccine approval could arrive in a matter of weeks, and that of Johnson & Johnson could follow in just a few months.
“I really think that’s the boost people will need to cross the finish line to get as many people vaccinated as possible,” McDeavitt said.
Parents of children under 12 are still waiting for an EUA. McDeavitt believes the 6-12 age group will likely be able to get the vaccine by the end of the year, but children under 6 will likely have to wait until next year.