Dr. Fauci Says There Will Be "A Flood" of Vaccine Mandates After This
"[Institutions] that have been reluctant to mandate at the local level will feel much more confident."
Anthony Fauci, MD, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a chief advisor to President Joe Biden, recently said that he believes Americans will see a "flood" of additional vaccine mandates after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers its full approval to the COVID-19 vaccines. Speaking to the editorial board of USA Today last week, Fauci predicted that the expected FDA approval would give institutions and governments more leeway to implement such mandates.
"Organizations, enterprises, universities, colleges that have been reluctant to mandate at the local level will feel much more confident," Fauci explained. "They can say, 'If you want to come to this college or this university, you've got to get vaccinated. If you want to work in this plant, you have to get vaccinated. If you want to work in this enterprise, you've got to get vaccinated. If you want to work in this hospital, you've got to get vaccinated.'"
Local governments and some businesses have already put COVID vaccine mandates into effect. Major companies like Facebook, Google, and United Airlines have alerted employees that they must be vaccinated, with some medical exceptions, in order to return to in-person work. Last week, Disney and Walmart announced that they'd be putting mandates in place for some customer-facing parts of their businesses. Employers can legally require employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine or ban them from their workplaces, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in recent guidance.
Meanwhile, the Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines are currently being offered in the U.S. under emergency use authorization. All have submitted applications for full approval from the FDA, but the process takes several months and none of them have received full approval yet.
Nevertheless, experts say that the vaccines offer offer safe and effective protection against COVID-19. According to the FDA, emergency use authorization still requires that vaccines undergo "a rigorous development process that includes tens of thousands of study participants to generate the needed non-clinical, clinical, and manufacturing data."
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Peter Marks, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, told The Washington Post on Friday that emergency use authorization is meant as a stop-gap measure while the months-long work required for full FDA approval takes place. The difference between emergency use authorization and full FDA approval is typically the amount of time spent testing a drug and the depth to which the FDA examines the drug is manufactured.
Marks hopes FDA approval may sway some vaccine holdouts. He said that the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine could see approval by early fall.
"There are any number of people who are saying that they are really uncomfortable with an experimental vaccine," he told the Post. "This EUA thing sounds really weird to them. They want an FDA-approved product. Whether they will show you the money and get vaccinated afterward or not, I believe that at least some of them will."
The importance of FDA approval has come into sharp focus as the U.S. has seen a steep increase in COVID-19 infections among children. A report from the American Academy of Pediatrics in late July found that cases among children are climbing at an alarming rate due to the spread of the delta variant.
"As of July 29, nearly 4.2 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic," the report reads. "Almost 72,000 cases were added the past week, a substantial increase from the prior week, when about 39,000 cases were reported. After declining in early summer, child cases have steadily increased in July."
Both Louisiana and Tennessee are seeing outsized outbreaks among children. Tennessee's Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey told WKRN that the state has seen a 200% increase in cases of pediatric COVID since July 1. Louisiana health officials said the state's COVID infection rate among children under 18 has also skyrocketed. According to the American Association of Pediatrics, around 25% of children under 18 being tested for COVID have positive results.
Parents continue to wait for vaccines to be approved for children under 12. In the meantime, Fauci told USA Today that children should wear masks to school this fall.
"I would rather have a child be a little bit uncomfortable with a mask on and be healthy than a comfortable child without a mask in an ICU," he said. "It just doesn't make any sense to me why you would want to not protect the children."
Vaccine hesitancy has been an ongoing issue throughout the pandemic—though a recent survey from the Census Bureau found that overall rates of hesitancy are declining. In January, 21.6% of Americans described themselves as vaccine-hesitant. A poll conducted in late June found that number had dropped to 10.8%, though certain states—Wyoming, West Virginia, North Dakota, and Alaska—are still seeing vaccine hesitancy rates above 20%.
"This is a dystopian world we're living in," Fauci told USA Today, noting the large amount of misinformation being spread about the vaccines. The public, he said, "are being misled."