Local health officials react to FDA approval of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

(ABC 6 News) – The Food and Drug Administration announced full approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer’s vaccine will no longer operate under emergency use.

Will the Johnson and Johnson and Moderna vaccines be close behind?

Local health officials say that’s a possibility. Moderna and Pfizer were both approved for emergency use around the same time and the vaccines use similar mRNA technology to build immunity. As soon as Moderna is finished compiling data for the FDA, we could see approval for them as well. For now, though, Mayo Clinic and Olmsted County Public Health are hopeful that Pfizer’s approval is enough to get more people vaccinated.

"You have to remember these mRNA vaccines have been the most studied and scrutinized vaccines of any vaccine ever released in the U.S.," Dr. Gregory Poland, director of a Mayo Clinic vaccine research group, said.

Poland said he’s studied vaccine hesitancy for almost 40 years and he believes that while this new approval will encourage some to get vaccinated, many others will still refuse.

"For many – not all – but for many vaccine rejectors and vaccine-hesitant…It has very little to do with data it has to do with their underlying fear," he said.

Graham Briggs with Olmsted County Public Health agrees.

"I think what it really comes down to is having trusted people that you’re hearing from in the community and you’re hearing from others that are encouraging people to go get vaccinated," Briggs said.

With school starting back up, and with the colder months coming, Briggs says it’s important now more than ever to encourage your friends and family to get vaccinated.

"I think that is even more powerful than a bunch of scientists at the FDA," he said.

But health experts do believe that the FDA’s full approval could signal more businesses or organizations around the country to make vaccine mandates.

"I’m guessing companies will just use that as a chance to say ‘okay so now that we know that we’ve got an official, safe efficacious product…we’re gonna require staff to do it,’" Briggs said.

Experts continue to emphasize that at this point every person who gets vaccinated makes a difference.

"We think there are about 20,000 people that could get vaccinated right now in this county but haven’t," Briggs said.

They’re confident that FDA’s approval will help save lives from the delta variant. Governor Walz also spoke out about the announcement. He said that "if you’ve been waiting for FDA approval to get your vaccine, today is your day to join the other 3.2 million Minnesotans who have gotten their shot."