What does FDA approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine mean for Utahns?

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) – Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine’s full approval from the Food and Drug Administration is sparking conversation about vaccine mandates and if businesses and organizations will require the shot.

At Intermountain Healthcare, officials estimate about 25% of all employees remain unvaccinated against the virus, and at the University of Utah Health officials report about 15 to 20% of staff have not gotten the shot.  

With the vaccine’s full approval, doctors said they hope more employees will roll up their sleeves and protect themselves, and others.

“We’re very encouraged that, just like the regular population who’s been waiting to hear this final approval, that our healthcare workers will act on that as well,” said Dr. Tamara Sheffield, the medical director for preventive medicine at Intermountain Healthcare.

“We hope that this is going to lead to a big surge in vaccine uptake among healthcare workers and among the general public for adolescents as well,” said Andrew Pavia, MD, the chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at U of U Health and the director of hospital epidemiology at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.

Currently, at both healthcare systems, doctors said employees are not required to get the COVID-19 shot, but with FDA approval, doctors said conversations are underway about if vaccination should be mandatory.

“I’m not the one who’s going to be making that decision. But I think our obligation is to ensure patient safety,” Dr. Pavia said.

“Weighing the benefits of a mandate versus doing everything we can to encourage that choice,” Dr. Sheffield said.

Experts believe this action could be a turning point for those who are vaccine-hesitant and said the Biden Administration has ensured there are enough doses for anyone who wants it.

“We have plenty of supply right now currently in our state, even to meet what we would expect to see in the increased demand, coming from the approval of this vaccine,” Dr. Sheffield said.

Following Pfizer’s vaccine approval, the FDA advised the shot should not be given to children for off-label use, as an official said they “do not have data on the proper dose, nor do we have the full data on the safety in children younger than what is in the EUA”.

While it’s not yet known when the FDA will approve Pfizer’s vaccine for 12-to-15-year-olds, experts said they anticipate an emergency use authorization vaccine for those under 12 this fall or winter.  

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is the first to receive full FDA approval in the United States, and doctors said this doesn’t mean Moderna or Johnson and Johnson doses are less safe and effective.  

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