Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine gets full FDA approval

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The Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to the Pfizer / BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, another landmark in the historic immunization campaign. The vaccine was previously available to people over the age of 12 in the United States under an emergency use authorization. Now, it’s officially licensed in the United States.

With full approval, Pfizer and BioNTech can directly market the shot to consumers. The approval may also push more companies and schools to mandate vaccinations. While it’s legal for them to require vaccinations under an emergency authorization, some have been reluctant to do so.

The companies needed to provide six months of safety and efficacy data on their vaccine to the FDA in order to submit their application for what’s called a Biological License. The agency only asked companies to collect two months of data before applying for an emergency use authorization. The shortened timeline allowed the agency to sidestep some of the more lengthy regulatory steps and get vaccines to people quickly during the crisis.

FDA approval may help some people who were on the fence about getting vaccinated feel more comfortable taking the shot. One May survey found that one-third of unvaccinated adults would be more likely to get a COVID-19 vaccine that was fully approved.

Now that one COVID-19 vaccine has full approval, other pharmaceutical companies will not be able to ask the FDA for new emergency use authorizations. Emergency authorizations can only be issued for drugs or vaccines when there are no approved options available — now that the Pfizer / BioNTech shot is licensed, that’s no longer the case. If AstraZeneca, for example, wanted to make its shot available in the US, it would have to start with the longer formal approval process.

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