COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates May Be Coming Swiftly After FDA Approval
Updated: Oct 7, 2021
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine has been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use since December 2020 before it received full approval after careful monitoring in August 2021. Now, it is being marketed as a safe, effective vaccine under the name of “Comirnaty” and is currently available for everyone 12 years old and over. The conditions it had to meet before approval required a meticulous evaluation to see how it reacts and alters the immune system and detect any potential risks that may accommodate those with valid medical concerns. The only requirement that the vaccine has been exempt from is not meeting the provision of data on long-term effects on people after receiving it, since it hasn’t been available to the public for a significant amount of time.
At the moment, the Food and Drug Administration discourages vaccinating children under 12 against COVID-19 due to a lack of conclusive data on the vaccine’s effects and potential risks as the same methods cannot be used for children as for adults, as stated by Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, “[Children] are not just small adults. We have learned that time and time again.”. However, Pfizer and Moderna are currently administering and monitoring studies on children under 12 to learn about the vaccine’s effects and potential risks, as well as differences in dosages, methodology, etc., that are needed to provide effective immunity against the virus. These studies are still ongoing, and results have yet to be announced.
Members of the administration call the approval of the vaccine a crucial “milestone” in the “battle” against the ongoing pandemic, and express their hope that the public’s reluctance to receive the vaccine diminishes significantly. As openly stated by Janet Woodcock, “While millions of people have already safely received COVID-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated.” Now that the vaccine has met “the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product”.
With the official approval of a COVID-19 vaccine set in place, there will likely be an increase in vaccine mandates for employees and those enrolled in educational facilities. It’s not a new concept, as states have long been requiring proof of immunization against specific diseases to be admitted into certain, high population density areas, like schools, so it wouldn’t be unheard of to add COVID-19 vaccines to the list.
There have already been several instances where government entities and public institutions have announced that all employees and service members need to be vaccinated against COVID-19. For example, The United States Department of Defense publicly declared that all members of the department must have the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine in order to maintain “a military that is prepared to defend the nation.” Another instance was when the United States departments of Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs required those employed in healthcare to receive both doses of the vaccine in order to prevent contact and the spread of the virus with patients, where the risk of transmission is high. A notable educational-issued mandate is the vaccine mandate recently passed in LA County Culver City Unified, the first district in the entire state who had publicly announced their mask and vaccine mandate, now requiring all district students and school faculty to be vaccinated and show proof. Tran, the assistant superintendent at Culver City this year, believes that the COVID-19 vaccine should be treated as an “extension of requirements for shots against childhood diseases such as measles”, and mentions “Every year kindergarteners have to be inoculated for all kinds of diseases,” Tran said. “It’s not something new.” New York City and New Jersey have also implemented similar mandates for school staff, and many more may soon follow.
There had also been discussions between California state lawmakers about implementing state-wide “vaccine passports” for COVID-19. The passports would provide evidence of being vaccinated “to enter many indoor business establishments and forcing workers to get vaccinated or regularly tested.” Extremely young individuals, or individuals with compromised immune systems or valid medical concerns would be excluded from this requirement. With the passports in place, state legislators hope to see a significant increase in vaccination rates and to halt the drastic spread of new potentially more lethal pathogen variants, such as the new, highly contagious Delta variant that had initially been found in India and made its way into the United States.
However, passing this policy will inevitably result in considerable resistance movements and protests from individuals since it is a deeply personal issue, as expressed by Robin Swanson, a Democratic political consultant, “There’s literally nothing more personal than taking the vaccine shot, so it’s going to elicit a reaction, no matter what.” At the moment, there are groups of individuals refusing to adhere to the vaccination policies due to various causes. For example, a recent study at the University of Oxford discovered that 10% of the United States population are hesitant to receive COVID-19 vaccinations due to a phobia of needles. As a potential remedy to this issue, Pfizer Inc has also been developing an oral medication against COVID-19 symptoms for those who may have a fear or extreme dislike of needles. Other, perhaps more notorious, causes for vaccination reluctance include individuals with heavy bias against vaccines in general due to misleading information from unreliable sources online that may provide false information or largely exaggerate vaccine risks. With the added component of active social media, these unreliable sources and sharing of similar ideas may influence the decisions of those who may still be on the fence of whether to get vaccinated or not.
The proposal has not yet been developed into a bill, and still demands major preparation and consideration of different factors, such as costs, implementation, and enforcement, but it may be a part of the near future.