KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Pfizer-BioNTech announced it will seek full approval for it’s COVID-19 vaccine from the Food and Drug Administration. Until now, the vaccine was being administered under Emergency Use Authorization.
The decision may sound like a simple formality from the company that has already injected millions of people with its vaccine, but the decision could actually be more impactful than you’d expect.
It’s difficult for many organizations and companies to require employees to take a vaccine that hasn’t been approved by the government, but that could change if Pfizer gets full approval.
“I think we really need to start having further conversations about what entities can mandate,” Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention control at the University of Kansas Health System, said. “We know that entities such as healthcare entity entities mandate certain things like hepatitis A and B vaccine because we know that they’re safe. We know how much it protects against those diseases.”
Many public school districts require vaccines like measles, mumps and rubella and the chicken pox vaccine to attend school. Other companies require employees to receive an annual flu vaccine.
“Once we have fully authorized vaccines, I think the [KU] health system will probably require that,” Dr. Steve Stites, Chief Medical Officer at the health system, said. “I think it’s going to be a pivot point for us to think about. Are we going to require it at different venues? Especially if you want to go back indoors, say to Allen Fieldhouse or the [T-Mobile] arena with packed audiences, or anywhere else.”
Stites said if those large events are at full capacity, and don’t have mask or vaccine requirements, they could quickly turn into super spreader situations.
“The infection dynamics there are pretty significant. You’ve got a lot of people all packed, breathing hard, cheering,” Stites said. “You really need to think about, gosh, are we gonna have vaccinated crowds in situations like that if we want to prevent disease transmission?”
On a Facebook Live Friday, experts with the health system pointed to events like the 2021 Draft as an example of an event that required people in the crowd to be vaccinated to keep everyone safe, while also advocating for the importance of getting the shot.
“It was clear that they had signage that was clear, this is all vaccinated people in this area who were unmasked, kinda promoting that use,” Lance Williamson, RN, supervisor in Infection Prevention and Control at the Health System, said. “I think we need to balance that, the promoting of the vaccine and that there is some normalcy when you do get vaccinated.”
The doctors said requiring a vaccine will impact people, even if they don’t plan on going out to large events yet.
It could start with what is available at the grocery store, or even whether or not you can even get there.
“There’s going to be a gas shortage this year because there’s not enough drivers who are trained because they were all ill, they stopped work,” Hawkinson said. “We know that there’s a large increase in the price of wood because Canada was shut down because they didn’t have the the workers and the drivers to get that wood and deliver.”
They said that keeping everyone healthy is the goal behind COVID-19 vaccines. The workforce is made up largely of people who are 20-65 years old. Those are the same people doctors say they are seeing hospitalized in Kansas City with severe cases of COVID-19, if they haven’t been vaccinated.
If you’re still looking for a vaccine, most metro retail pharmacy chains are accepting walk-in appointments.