Edwards vaccine

Gov. John Bel Edwards, left, receives his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, March 2, 2021.

Gov. John Bel Edwards called the federal approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine a “historic moment” in the ongoing fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave its full approval to the Pfizer vaccine, the first such full approval of its kind.

The formula made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech now carries the strongest endorsement from the FDA, a milestone that national and state leaders hope will lift public confidence in the shots and spur more companies, universities, and local governments to make vaccinations mandatory.

More than 200 million Pfizer doses have been administered in the U.S. — and hundreds of millions more worldwide — since December. But up to now, they were dispensed in this country under what is known as emergency use authorization from the FDA.

According to the Associated Press, Moderna has also applied to the FDA for full approval of its vaccine, while Johnson & Johnson has said it hopes to do so later this year.

In Louisiana, more than 2.2 million residents have taken at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with nearly 40 percent of Louisiana’s population fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to CDC data.

The FDA’s approval comes as Louisiana experiences its worst surge of COVID-19 to date, with record-breaking cases and hospitalizations being reported to the Louisiana Department of Health over the last month.

“Today’s FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine, now marketed as Comirnaty, is yet another historic moment in our journey out of this COVID-19 pandemic,” Edwards said in a statement. “This full FDA approval of the first COVID vaccine follows months of clinical trials and millions upon millions of real-world doses safely administered across the globe.

“This vaccine is well researched, very safe and highly effective at preventing serious COVID illness, hospitalization and death.”

During his monthly radio show last week, Edwards said he has “every expectation” that the state would add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccines upon federal approval, though there would be some opt-out provisions ‘like any other vaccine.”

Anyone 12 years of age and older is eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, which remains the only one approved for children. 

Edwards didn’t mention a vaccine requirement in his statement Monday but said he was “optimistic” vaccine numbers would grow after the FDA’s announcement.

“It is my fervent hope that any Louisianan who was waiting for the FDA approval of the vaccine will take action to immediately receive their shot,” Edwards said. “Already, more than 2.2 million Louisianans have taken at least one dose of the vaccines that are available statewide.

“We are optimistic that our numbers will grow as we fight together to end this COVID pandemic once and for all. Today would be a great day to get your COVID vaccine.”

Dr. Joseph Kanter, the state health officer, also applauded the FDA’s full approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in a statement.

“After an exhaustive review process, we are very happy to see the Pfizer vaccine receive full licensure from the FDA,” Kanter said. “More than 200 million Americans, including 2.2 million people in Louisiana, already have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and our most recent surge have been devastating. To date, we have lost more than 11,900 Louisianans to this virus. Many more people going sleeves up for this life-saving vaccine will protect us against future COVID-19 surges and help us put an end to this pandemic.”

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