BURLINGTON, Vt. – On Monday, the FDA granted full approval for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, and local health experts say this will likely convince more people to get vaccinated.
Roughly 93 million eligible Americans haven’t started the vaccination process, and while just 15 percent of eligible Vermonters haven’t gotten started, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said the full approval will help clear up a lot of misconceptions.
“This approval is really combatting a lot of misinformation, because it’s now showing to the world we’ve gone through all the documents, we’ve seen all of the numbers, all of the study literature, all the real world experience, and we believe these vaccines are very effective and very safe,” Dr. Levine said.
Dr. Levine said it’s hard to know how much of Vermont’s unvaccinated population could be swayed by the FDA’s full approval, but at this stage of Vermont’s vaccine rollout when most outreached strategies have been used already, it could be a big help.
Dr. Wouter Rietsema, an infectious disease specialist at CVPH, said if it really is an issue of confidence for some, the approval should largely address that.
“What people state as reasons and what their real visceral reasons are are often different, so at an individual level, I’m not sure what this will mean, but there are probably some people who will be convinced by this,” Dr. Rietsema said.
Both Dr. Levine and Dr. Rietsema said the full approval will likely push more businesses and institutions toward a vaccine mandate.
“We’ll see that there is more confidence in doing that now, because this is true approval and not just emergency use authorization,” Dr. Levine said.
“To be honest, you’re already seeing those mandates, so we may see more of an impact that way than we see on individuals,” Dr. Rietsema said.
Some Vermonters we spoke with also seemed to think the full approval will boost vaccination rates.
“I would imagine the FDA’s full approval will make a big difference for a lot of people,” said Peter McCann. “Of course, there will be holdouts who are going to wait, but I think if you’re looking to get as many people vaccinated as possible, this will certainly push it in the right direction.”
Others weren’t as optimistic.
“One would hope so, but I think these people are so entrenched in their own stupidity that nothing is going to be able to dredge them out of it,” said Candace Lawrence.
You may also start noticing the Pfizer vaccine going by a new name now that it’s been fully approved – Comirnaty.
More reaction from local officials on the approval will be shared following Tuesday’s weekly press briefing with Governor Phil Scott.