President Joe Biden on Monday pressed businesses and public leaders to implement vaccine mandates after the federal government issued its first full approval of a Covid-19 vaccine.
The Food and Drug Administration early Monday approved Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine for people 16 and older, a step beyond the emergency-use authorization under which the shot has been available since late 2020.
"I'm calling on more companies in the private sector to step up with vaccine requirements that will reach millions more people," Biden said in remarks at the White House. "If you're a business leader, a nonprofit leader, a state or local leader, who has been waiting for full FDA approval to require vaccinations, I call on you now to do that — require it. It only makes sense to require a vaccine to stop the spread of Covid-19."
But the president’s call for schools and business to require vaccination — especially as the Delta variant fuels an increase in hospitalizations — comes amid stiff resistance to mask and vaccine mandates by some Republican governors and lawmakers who say they are unnecessary.
There is also mounting concern among health experts about breakthrough infections in already-vaccinated people, an event that administration officials say is still very rare but can be prevented if more people are immunized. Along with the Pfizer vaccine that is now fully approved, Americans also have access to shots from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson under emergency authorization.
Biden this month mandated vaccinations or routine testing for millions of federal works and the Pentagon said Monday morning that it would require them for active military.
The president said that more than 170 million people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated against the virus, while 30 million more have gotten at least one shot of the two-dose regimen. Six million shots were administered in the most recent seven-day period the highest week total since mid-June.
"If you're one of the millions of Americans who said that they will not get the shot until it has full and final approval of FDA: It has now happened," he said. "The moment you've been waiting for is here."
It is unclear whether the full approval will sway skeptical Americans. Roughly 30 percent of holdouts polled recently by Kaiser Family Foundation said they would be more likely to get a fully approved shot than an emergency authorized dose, but many respondents also did not realize the Pfizer shot and others had not yet been approved.
Biden also commended FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock for leading the agency during the approval process. While supporters have floated Woodcock, who has helmed FDA's drug division for years, as the permanent commissioner, Biden has yet to announce a nominee.
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