Utah health experts share their thoughts on the FDA’s approval of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

Aug 23, 2021, 6:38 PM | Updated: 10:54 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

The federal seal of approval is a major step in the battle to end the coronavirus pandemic.

Local health experts said they hope this leads to a surge in vaccinations in our community.

It is the first of the COVID-19 vaccines to receive full approval from the FDA as the nation battles the Delta variant and a rise in new cases.

Doctors at Intermountain Healthcare and University of Utah Health hope it raises public confidence in the vaccines.

“What it means is that the vaccine has now undergone an incredibly rigorous process,” said Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at U of U Health and director of Hospital Epidemiology at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.

Pavia said he hopes this licensure of the vaccine will improve confidence and convince more Americans that the vaccine is safe and effective.

“It removes a lot of final doubts that people have about what kind of scrutiny it’s been under,” he said. “It will open the door, I hope, for businesses, the military and others to begin to require vaccination where it protects the public the most.“

Companies, universities and local governments have already begun weighing those decisions, as are healthcare organizations.

“I think our obligation is to do everything that we can to ensure patient safety,” Pavia said.

But, neither of Utah’s two largest healthcare systems require that for their employees.

“This approval really signals that the vaccine has undergone the FDA’s most rigorous review of safety, efficacy in manufacturing, and it should be considered a standard practice for the prevention of disease,” said Dr. Tamara Sheffield, Intermountain Healthcare Medical Director for Preventive Medicine

About a third of the eligible U.S. population remains unvaccinated, while health officials say the vaccines are still the best tool for ending the pandemic.

“Some individuals have been concerned that that the vaccines’ development has been rushed or cut corners, which really was not the case. The full FDA approval now validates the emergency use authorization that was granted to the vaccine eight months ago,” said Sheffield.

More than 200 million Pfizer doses have already been given in the U.S. since emergency use began in December.

Serious side effects are exceptionally rare, according to the FDA, and the vaccine remained 97% protective against severe COVID-19 after six months.

“We hope that this is going to lead to a big surge in vaccine uptake among healthcare workers and among the general public and for adolescents, as well,” said Pavia.

Many parents are still waiting on emergency use authorization for the vaccine for children 6 to 11.

He said there could be news on that in September, as well as full approval of the Moderna vaccine.

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Utah health experts share their thoughts on the FDA’s approval of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine