With FDA approval, more would get COVID-19 vaccine
America’s vaccination campaign has stalled, even as COVID-19 infections soar due to the delta variant. As of Aug. 2, only 49.7% of the population is fully vaccinated, barely up from the 46.7% in late June. Providers are now administering about 650,000 shots a day, on average, compared to 3.3 million a day during mid-April.
The Biden administration, desperate to pick up the pace, is now mandating shots for federal employees and getting behind mask mandates once again.
Curiously absent from the administration’s agenda is something that would almost certainly boost vaccination rates right away — full Food and Drug Administration approval of the COVID-19 shots. People have been receiving Pfizer’s shot since Dec. 11, 2020, and Moderna’s since Dec. 18, under Emergency Use Authorization.
Pfizer applied for full approval on May 7. Moderna did so on June 1. But the bureaucrats at the FDA have displayed no sense of urgency. It wasn’t until July 30 when the FDA announced that it would deploy an “all hands on deck” strategy to work toward approval.
Waiting almost three months to get moving — that’s some definition of “accelerated review.”
Full approval would boost vaccine uptake in three key ways. First, it’d reassure the one in 10 American adults who are taking a “wait and see” approach to the vaccines. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll published in late June found that, of those wait-and-seers, 67% feared the vaccine “was too new” and that drug companies had cut corners to rush the shots to market. Fifty-seven percent “worried about side effects.”
Many of these people are essentially wondering why the FDA hasn’t fully approved the shots if they’re as safe and effective as public health officials claim. A staggering 49% of wait-and-seers say that full approval would make them more likely to get vaccinated.
Second, it’d enable Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson to advertise the shots directly to consumers. Drug ads are effective. The House Commerce Committee previously found that every “$1 spent on direct-to-consumer advertising results in up to a $6 increase in sales.”
Now would be a great time to get those great marketing minds to work convincing people to sit for their COVID-19 shots.
Third, it’d give private-sector institutions, from companies to universities, more leverage to push workers and students to get vaccinated.
At certain workplaces — such as nursing homes full of elderly and immunocompromised people — it’s eminently reasonable for management to order workers to get the shot or find a different job. Medical provider-groups are already pushing hospitals to institute vaccine requirements.
The Kaiser Family Foundation found that four in 10 unvaccinated workers would get the shots if required as a condition of employment. If the FDA fully authorizes the vaccines, it’d put employers who decide to require vaccination on firmer legal ground.
More than 600 universities already plan to mandate vaccination for at least some students or employees for the fall semester. But some of those mandates are contingent upon full FDA approval of the vaccines.
There’s no question full approval would lead tens of millions more Americans to get vaccinated. And few, if any, drugs have ever been studied as closely as the COVID-19 vaccines. What is the FDA waiting for?