Northam hopes full Pfizer approval will increase vaccination rates, supports additional mandates


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Ralph Northam hopes full licensure of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine will pave the way for higher immunization rates and more mandates, though he’s not committing to additional statewide requirements at this time.

Pfizer is the first COVID-19 vaccine to win full FDA approval for those 16 and older following an extensive review of safety, efficacy, and manufacturing.

The Pfizer vaccine – along with the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines – has been distributed under an emergency use authorization until now. Moving forward under full approval, the Pfizer vaccine will be marketed under the brand name “Comirnaty.'”

Gov. Northam reacted to the announcement after an event on Monday alongside Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. Both hope this step will help people overcome vaccine hesitancy.

“I don’t see any excuse for people not to roll up their sleeves and get a shot,” Northam said. “That’s the only way for us to get this pandemic behind us.”

“We have been pushing the federal administration to get final approval done because I think that has been a big stumbling block,” Hogan said. “For the remaining folks, a big part of it was that it was not approved yet.”

According to Virginia Department of Health data, just over 75 percent of adults 18 and older have gotten at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine to date.

The full approval granted to Pfizer on Monday applies to everyone ages 16 and up. Children ages 12 to 15 can continue to receive the vaccine under an emergency use authorization, as can immunocompromised people seeking a third dose.

“The science is clear that this is a safe and effective vaccine that is highly effective in preventing infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and subsequent variants, and in preventing serious illness that could result in hospitalization and/or death,” said Virginia Vaccination Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula, in a statement.

In previous interviews, Avula has said full FDA approval would likely prompt more businesses, local governments and schools to implement vaccine requirements.  

Earlier this month, Gov. Northam announced that state employees would be required to get vaccinated or complete weekly testing. At the time, he said he had “no plans” to mandate vaccines for the general public.

Northam didn’t directly respond when asked if Virginians should expect additional statewide vaccine mandates under full licensure. Instead, he reiterated his support for existing public and private sector requirements.

“There are a lot of businesses, to your point, a lot of colleges and universities that are mandating the vaccine and I certainly support that and will continue to,” Northam said.

When asked if Virginia should follow places like New York, where proof of vaccination is now required for activities like indoor dining and entertainment, Northam said that choice will be left to localities.

“Obviously we have to follow privacy. I think that’s important for individuals but again I think, as a general statement, all options are on the table to get the pandemic behind us and I think today is an important day,” Northam said.

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