Aug. 9, 2021 -- The FDA could fully approve Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine by the end of August, which is a hopeful sign that could drive up vaccinations nationwide, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Sunday.
Once a vaccine is fully approved, that could open the door for vaccine mandates in businesses, schools, and universities, he said.
“I hope -- I don’t predict -- but I hope that it will be within the next few weeks. I hope it’s within the month of August,” Fauci said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
“If that’s the case, you’re going to see the empowerment of local enterprises giving mandates … and I strongly support that,” he said. “The time has come, and we’ve got to go the extra step to get people vaccinated.”
The Biden administration has said that the federal government won’t mandate vaccines beyond the federal workforce, according to The Associated Press, but White House officials have encouraged state and local governments and businesses to consider vaccine mandates.
Fauci, who also serves as President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said Sunday that “mandates at the local level need to be done” to slow the rapid spread of the Delta variant, particularly in areas with low vaccination rates. About half of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, according to the latest CDC tally updated on Sunday. Some states in the South have vaccination rates under 40%.
Several companies have announced vaccine mandates for employees, the AP reported, including Disney, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Tyson Foods, United Airlines, and Walmart. Indiana University will require students and employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, while others are waiting for full FDA approval to implement a requirement for their campuses.
“As a matter of personal conscience, I think that we need to be working with our employers -- not opposing them -- on vaccine mandates,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federal of Teachers union, said on Meet the Press on Sunday.
Several cities and local governments are considering vaccine requirements as well. New York City will require proof of vaccination for indoor dining, gyms, and entertainment venues, and San Francisco plans to require all city employees to be inoculated once the FDA fully approves a vaccine.
Fauci said a full FDA approval will lead to a “flood” of vaccine mandates across the country.
“Organizations, enterprises, universities, colleges that have been reluctant to mandate at the local level will feel much more confident,” he told USA Today.
If more people get vaccinated, the pandemic could come to an end this year, Fauci said. But if too many people remain unvaccinated, he worries that waves of infections will continue for the long term.
“You will get a smoldering level of infection that will just go right into the fall, get confused with influenza in the winter, and then come back again in the spring,” he told USA Today.
The unvaccinated will continue to get sick, and some will die, Fauci warned. And as more people become infected with the contagious Delta variant, the risk increases for an even more complex and dangerous mutation to arise.
“All of the sudden, your decision not to get vaccinated goes beyond your own vacuum and influences society,” he said.