The Food and Drug Administration on Monday granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and older, making it the first to move beyond emergency use status in the United States.
The decision will set off a cascade of vaccine requirements by hospitals, colleges, corporations and other organizations. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III will be sending guidelines to the country’s 1.4 million active duty service members mandating that they be vaccinated, the Pentagon announced on Monday.
United Airlines recently announced that its employees will be required to show proof of vaccination within five weeks of regulatory approval.
Oregon has adopted a similar requirement for all state workers, as have a host of universities in states from Louisiana to Minnesota. In New York, the F.D.A.’s approval also brought into force a requirement announced in May that all students attending in-person classes at State University of New York and City University of New York schools be vaccinated.
The approval comes as the nation’s fight against the pandemic has intensified again, with the highly infectious Delta variant dramatically slowing the progress that the country had made over the first half of the year. In a nine-minute speech Monday afternoon, President Biden he said he hopes the development will motivate many of the roughly 85 million unvaccinated Americans who are eligible for shots to get them. He told corporate, state and local leaders: “Do what I did last month. Require your employees to get vaccinated or face strict requirements” such as frequent testing.
He cast Pfizer’s approval as a sign of the overall progress he said his administration is making against the pandemic. While he acknowledged that the death rate, now averaging about 1,000 new deaths a day, has been climbing, he said the toll is still far lower what it was last winter because the vast majority of elderly people are vaccinated.
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