The FDA on Monday gave full approval to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
President Joe Biden says people who have been waiting for that milestone need to get their shot now to stem what he calls a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
“Across the country, virtually all the COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths continue to be among the unvaccinated,” Biden said in a speech marking the vaccine’s approval. “That’s worse in states where vaccination rates are overall, but even in states where many people are vaccinated, the unvaccinated are still at risk.”
Dr. Michael Angarone, an infectious disease specialist at Northwestern Medicine, says not everyone who’s been hesitant to get vaccinated was waiting on full approval. “But what we do hope is those individuals that are out there, that that’s what they were waiting for,” he said. “This really encourages them to go and get vaccinated – or that they talk to their health care provider and their provider says, ‘Look, the vaccine’s now approved, here’s all the other evidence we’ve talked about before, so now let’s go and get vaccinated.’”
The vaccine has been approved for people ages 16 and older, and is still authorized for emergency use for 12- to 15-year-olds. On Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he expects the vaccine data on children younger than 12 to be available this fall.
“That’s what we’ve heard as well,” Angarone said. “The FDA really wants to take a close look at the data in young kids … to really see how safe is it. And I think that’s what it’s all about, is safety.”
As many students in Chicago and around the U.S. return to in-person learning amid a surge in infections driven by the more transmissible delta variant, Angarone says schools and educators now have a good sense of best practices to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.
“We have examples from last year with different school districts and different educational providers that had kids going to school throughout the whole year. The Chicago Archdiocese is an example, and they did it safely,” Angarone said. “If we mask kids, monitor the different activities that they’re doing together, that there’s not a lot of mingling amongst the different groups of kids, that they can go to school safely.”