F.D.A. Grants Full Approval to Pfizer-BioNTech Covid Vaccine

The decision will set off a cascade of vaccine requirements by hospitals, colleges, corporations, and some state and local governments.

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

The F.D.A. grants full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.

Pfizer said it presented the Food and Drug Administration with data from 44,000 clinical trial participants in United States, the European Union, Turkey, South Africa and South America.Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

Aug. 23, 2021Updated 10:00 a.m. ET

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and up, making it the first to move beyond emergency use status in the United States.

The decision will set off a cascade of vaccine requirements by hospitals, colleges, corporations and other organizations. United Airlines recently announced that its employees will be required to show proof of vaccination within five weeks of regulatory approval.

Oregon has adopted a similar requirement for all state workers, as have a host of universities in states from Louisiana to Minnesota. The Pentagon has said it would mandate the shots for the country’s 1.3 million active-duty troops once the Pfizer approval came through.

The approval comes as the nation’s fight against the pandemic has intensified again, with the highly infectious Delta variant hurting the progress that the country had made over the first half of the year. The Biden administration hopes the development will motivate at least some of the roughly 85 million unvaccinated Americans who are eligible for shots to get them.

“While millions of people have already safely received Covid-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the F.D.A. approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated,” Dr. Janet Woodcock, the acting F.D.A. commissioner, said in a statement. “Today’s milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S.”

Pfizer said it presented the F.D.A. with data from 44,000 clinical trial participants in United States, the European Union, Turkey, South Africa and South America. The company said the data showed the vaccine was 91 percent effective in preventing infection — a slight drop from the 95 percent efficacy rate that the data showed when the F.D.A. decided to authorize the vaccine for emergency use in December. Pfizer said the decrease reflected the fact that researchers had more time to catch people who became infected.

A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which has been tracking public attitudes during the pandemic, found that three of every 10 unvaccinated people said that they would be more likely to get vaccinated with a shot that had been fully approved.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will continue to be authorized for emergency use for children ages 12 to 15 while Pfizer collects the necessary data required for full approval. A decision on whether to authorize the vaccine for children younger than 12 could be at least several months away. So far, more than 92 million Americans — 54 percent of those fully inoculated — have gotten Pfizer shots. Most of the rest received Moderna’s vaccine.

Dr. Peter Marks, the F.D.A.’s top vaccine regulator, said that the Pfizer vaccine’s licensure followed a rigorous review of hundreds of thousands of pages of data and included inspections of the factories where the vaccine is produced. “The public and medical community can be confident that although we approved this vaccine expeditiously, it was fully in keeping with our existing high standards for vaccines in the U.S.,” he said.

The F.D.A. is in the midst of a decision-making marathon related to coronavirus vaccines. The next major one looming for regulators is whether or not to authorize booster shots. The Biden administration said last week that pending the agency’s clearance, it will offer third shots to adults who got the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines eight months after their second injection, starting Sept. 20.

Understand the State of Vaccine and Mask Mandates in the U.S.

Mask rules. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July recommended that all Americans, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in indoor public places within areas experiencing outbreaks, a reversal of the guidance it offered in May. See where the C.D.C. guidance would apply, and where states have instituted their own mask policies. The battle over masks has become contentious in some states, with some local leaders defying state bans.Vaccine rules . . . and businesses. Private companies are increasingly mandating coronavirus vaccines for employees, with varying approaches. Such mandates are legally allowed and have been upheld in court challenges.College and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities are requiring students to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Almost all are in states that voted for President Biden.Schools. On Aug. 11, California announced that it would require teachers and staff of both public and private schools to be vaccinated or face regular testing, the first state in the nation to do so. A survey released in August found that many American parents of school-age children are opposed to mandated vaccines for students, but were more supportive of mask mandates for students, teachers and staff members who do not have their shots. Hospitals and medical centers. Many hospitals and major health systems are requiring employees to get a Covid-19 vaccine, citing rising caseloads fueled by the Delta variant and stubbornly low vaccination rates in their communities, even within their work force.New York. On Aug. 3, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York announced that proof of vaccination would be required of workers and customers for indoor dining, gyms, performances and other indoor situations, becoming the first U.S. city to require vaccines for a broad range of activities. City hospital workers must also get a vaccine or be subjected to weekly testing. Similar rules are in place for New York State employees.At the federal level. The Pentagon announced that it would seek to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for the country’s 1.3 million active-duty troops “no later” than the middle of September. President Biden announced that all civilian federal employees would have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel.

Federal health officials said that both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s vaccines, which rely on similar technology, wane in potency over time. That trend, they said, is converging with the rise of the particularly dangerous Delta variant, making those who completed their vaccinations at the start of the year increasingly vulnerable to infection.

Some health experts have challenged the decision to recommend booster shots as premature, saying the data shows that the vaccines are holding up well against severe disease and hospitalization, including against the Delta variant. Boosters would only be warranted if the vaccines were failing to prevent hospitalizations with Covid-19, some of those experts have said.

Regulators are still reviewing Moderna’s application for full approval of its vaccine. That decision could take several weeks. Johnson & Johnson is expected to apply soon for full approval.

Leave a Reply