One reason why so many Americans have been hesitant to get a coronavirus vaccine is that no drug formula had received full FDA approval. Rather, the three vaccines on the market were only made available under emergency use authorization.
But today, the FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer and BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and older, making it the first formula to move beyond emergency use authorization. And that decision could really help alter the trajectory the pandemic has taken.
Approval at just the right time
For the past month, COVID-19 cases have surged on a national scale as the highly transmissible delta variant has taken hold. While vaccination rates in some hard-hit states have begun to pick up, the hope is that full FDA approval will motivate even more people to go out and get a jab.
A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that three of every 10 unvaccinated people said they'd be more likely to get vaccinated with a formula that had been fully approved. Since there's ample supply of the vaccine to go around, the hope is that inoculation rates continue to improve in light of this new announcement.
If that happens, and case numbers drop, the risk of cities and states having to impose new restrictions will wane. That could, in turn, be good news for restaurants and other small businesses that were hurt by restrictions early on in the pandemic. It would also be good news for real estate investors, as shuttered businesses have the potential to leave landlords with vacancies that are difficult to fill.
More companies could mandate vaccines
Office building occupancy rates have been sitting at record lows in many major markets, and now, a number of large employers are postponing their reopening plans due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. At the same time, though, a growing number of companies are imposing vaccine mandates on employees. And now that the Pfizer formula is fully approved by the FDA, that list could easily grow in the coming weeks, which would likely be a good thing for office REITs (real estate investment trusts).
United Airlines has already pushed up the timeline of its vaccine requirement in light of the full approval announcement. The airline originally said that workers must get vaccinated by Oct. 25 or five weeks from FDA approval of any vaccine -- whichever came first. Now, United employees must get their first jab by Sept. 27.
Meanwhile, Oregon has put a similar requirement in place for state workers that will now be enforced in light of the FDA's full vaccine approval. And in the near term, we could see more colleges and school districts mandate the vaccine for employees and, in the case of universities, students.
Before the FDA gave its formula full approval, Pfizer presented the agency with data from 44,000 clinical trial participants in the U.S. and abroad. All told, the vaccine was 91% effective in preventing COVID-19 infections. But just as importantly, all of the vaccines on the market, including those without full FDA approval, have been shown to be highly effective in preventing severe disease and hospitalization.
Ultimately, most health experts agree that the best way to move on from the pandemic is to get as much of the eligible population vaccinated as possible, and full FDA approval could get the U.S. closer to meeting that goal.