Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday he is hopeful that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will give full approval to the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine by the end of August, and he predicted that a wave of vaccine mandates will soon follow.
At the moment, the agency has only granted emergency use of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Pfizer first applied for full approval in May.
While not mandating vaccines beyond the federal workforce, the Biden administration is urging state and local governments as well as businesses to consider the move. Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that “mandates at the local level need to be done” to help curb the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, the Associated Press reported.
“I hope — I don’t predict — I hope that it will be within the next few weeks. I hope it’s within the month of August,” Fauci said of FDA approval of the vaccine. “If that’s the case, you’re going to see the empowerment of local enterprises, giving mandates that could be colleges, universities, places of business, a whole variety and I strongly support that. The time has come. … We’ve got to go the extra step to get people vaccinated.”
Biden recently approved rules requiring federal workers to provide proof of vaccination or face regular testing, mask mandates and travel restrictions. Biden is also awaiting a recommendation from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on potentially requiring U.S. troops to get vaccinated, the AP reported.
At the same time, numerous high-profile companies have told employees that coronavirus vaccination requirements are being planned, and some localities have issued or are considering vaccine requirements to dine indoors, the AP reported.
United Airlines said its employees will need to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 25 or five weeks after the FDA grants full approval to one of the vaccines — whichever date comes first.
Meanwhile, Disney and Walmart have announced vaccine mandates for white-collar workers, and Microsoft, Google and Facebook said they will require proof of vaccination for employees and visitors to their U.S. offices, the AP reported. Tyson Foods has also announced it will require all U.S. employees to get vaccinated by November.
But last week, the U.S. Supreme Court was asked to block a vaccine mandate plan by Indiana University after a federal appeals court ruled in the university’s favor, the AP reported. It’s the first time the high court has been asked to weigh in on a vaccine mandate.
Randi Weingarten, president of American Federation of Teachers union, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that she supports a vaccine mandate for educators.
“As a matter of personal conscience, I think that we need to be working with our employers — not opposing them on vaccine mandates,” said Weingarten, who estimated that roughly 90% of the union’s members are already vaccinated.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, on Sunday was an unabashed fan of vaccine mandates, telling ABC’s “This Week” that, “I celebrate when I see businesses deciding that they’re going to mandate that for their employees. Yes, I think we ought to use every public health tool we can when people are dying.”
White House Outlines Effort to Vaccinate Young as Schools Start to Reopen
Worried about low vaccination rates among the young as the new school year looms, the White House last week unveiled a new initiative to get shots into the arms of more students.
The push will include enlisting pediatricians to make COVID-19 vaccination part of back-to-school sports physicals and encouraging schools to host vaccination clinics.
The initiative was announced by Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona as part of a broader “return to school roadmap,” aimed at getting students back in the classroom for learning this fall.
The vaccination push comes as schools around the country are beginning to reopen. Starting on Saturday, text chains and phone banks will encourage vaccination for the young, although experts and school superintendents told The New York Times that boosting vaccination rates among students may be a tall order.
The Pfizer vaccine was authorized for people aged 12 and older in May, but young people remain far less likely than older adults to have gotten their shots. Only 40.2% of 12- to 15-year-olds and 50.6% of 16- to 17- year olds have received at least one dose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The agency said last week it wanted in-person schooling to resume across the country and called for universal mask use by students, staff and visitors in schools, regardless of their vaccination status or the rate of community transmission of the virus.
“Children should return to full-time, in-person learning in the fall, with proper prevention strategies in place,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a news briefing.
The administration is focusing on school athletics as an important path to vaccination. Millions of American students play organized sports, and some school officials are making the case that if student athletes get vaccinated, they can avoid quarantining — and forfeiting their games — if they are exposed to an infected person, the Times reported.
To that end, a White House official said on the condition of anonymity that the administration has enlisted the help of various groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, to put out guidance for doctors and to update school physical forms. Cardona and Doug Emhoff, husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, plan to visit a school vaccination clinic in Kansas next week, Cardona said.
But some school officials are finding that persuading parents to get their students vaccinated is a difficult task.
“For people who are for it, it’s an easy one — they support vaccination as a strong strategy to fight COVID, and they don’t see any issue with the use of public space,” Kristi Wilson, superintendent of the Buckeye Elementary School District, near Phoenix, told the Times. She recently wrapped up a term as president of AASA: The School Superintendents Association, which represents 13,000 school superintendents across the country.
“But the other side I’m hearing is that, ‘Where do you draw the line? Who’s going to administer it? Even if public health does it, is it an appropriate use of space?’ If you have a community that is very anti-vaccination, how do you manage that?” she said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19.
SOURCES: Associated Press; NBC’s “Meet the Press”; ABC’S “This Week”; The New York Times