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Full federal approval of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine will empower businesses and universities to require vaccinations and tip hesitant Americans toward getting the jab, the surgeon general, Dr Vivek Murthy, said on Sunday.
“We already know that there are many businesses and universities that have moved toward vaccine requirements,” Murthy told CNN’s State of the Union. “And I think it’s a very reasonable thing to do to create a safe environment.”
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is trying to finish its licensing process for the lifesaving drug as soon as Monday, the New York Times has reported.
Until now, the Pfizer shot has been administered under an emergency use authorization, though experts continue to emphasize that it is safe and effective.
“We’ve given it to hundreds of millions of people,” Murthy said. “We’ve seen that it’s doing its job. And that’s why we’re continuing to recommend that people get vaccinated starting today and … as soon as they can.”
As the highly infectious Delta variant spreads, the US is experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases. Many southern states are struggling for hospital capacity amid resistance from Republican leaders and the public to vaccinations and mask mandates.
The overwhelming majority of Covid hospitalizations and deaths in the US are among unvaccinated people.
As health misinformation continues to dog the pandemic response, some have started self-medicating with a form of ivermectin intended for horses, which the FDA has warned could lead to hospitalization.
“The best protection we have against Covid-19 is the vaccine, and if you get Covid-19, we actually do have treatments that work,” Murthy said.
“Ivermectin is not one of them.”
With the start of a new academic year, students across the US are returning to crowded school campuses. Yet younger children still aren’t eligible for the vaccine, and hospitals in hard-hit areas are running out of pediatric intensive care space.
“Unfortunately, in those places that they’re using politics to block good practice, we’re seeing hospitalizations through the roof for young children,” the education secretary, Miguel Cardona, told NBC’s Meet the Press.
The battle over school safety has become so heated that the Department of Education’s office for civil rights is now tasked with investigating cases where students feel their health is at risk because of state mask mandate bans.
“Let’s get politics out of the way,” Cardona said. “Let the educational leaders and health experts make the decisions around how to keep students and staff safe.”
The Biden administration is also preparing to roll out an expansive booster-shot campaign next month, offering a third shot to patients who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
As with the initial jabs, healthcare workers, long-term care residents and the elderly will take priority, Murthy told ABC’s This Week.
“The vaccines are continuing to work remarkably well for preventing people from ending up in the hospital, and they are saving lives,” Murthy said.
“But what we are seeing is a decline in the protection against mild to moderate disease, and so we are anticipating there may be an erosion in that important protection that we’re seeing today down the line.
“And that’s why, to stay ahead of this virus, we’re recommending that people start to get boosters the week of 20 September.”
This article was amended on 23 August 2021 to clarify the type of ivermectin being taken by people to self-medicate.