Medical Examiner

Finally, Something Good

The Food and Drug Administration has fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine.

a vaccine
A medic prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine. Mahmud Hams/Getty Images

Here’s a welcome piece of good pandemic news: The Food and Drug Administration just granted the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine full approval.

“We recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated,” acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement. According to a May survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a third of unvaccinated adults would be “more likely” to get vaccinated once the FDA granted full approval.

If approval itself doesn’t fully sway people who have so far chosen not to get vaccinated, maybe needing a vaccine to attend important events, or even show up at a workplace, will. The approval, which applies to the vaccine for anyone above the age of 16, should spark a slew of vaccine mandates. Shortly after the FDA announcement, the Pentagon’s press secretary said that the shots would be required for service members. (Go ahead and use the news as further backing for your own vaccine mandate at Thanksgiving.)

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You might reasonably be wondering: What took the FDA so long? We’ve known for a while now that getting vaccinated is well worth the possible weird and temporary side effects, and in addition to, you know, saving one’s life, could earn one a slew of various freebies. Poltico health care reporter Sarah Owermohle told What Next: TBD that it boils down to: Taking a long time to consider a ton of data is how this works. The FDA’s clinical trial included more than 40,000 people and followed 12,000 participants for at least six months. As Owermohle explains:

There is a lot of urgency with the COVID vaccine, but what they’re doing in those months between authorization and eventual approval is going through raw data for tens of thousands of people … and you’ll get people enrolled with any range of medical issues, people across the board on age, people with any other socioeconomic factors that can play into this, people with different jobs where they could be highly exposed.

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So, the vaccine, which we knew was exceedingly safe, is exceedingly exceedingly safe. Hey, in our era of the delta variant, I’ll take it.

Another piece of good news: The commercial name for the vaccine—Comirnaty—is rather mockable. What does that even mean?! Is it a mangled version of the word community to match America’s failed attempt to control the virus by working together? A kindergartner trying to say coronavirus and immunity quickly? The noise of a robot winding itself down because it accurately understands that planet Earth is on its way out? In any case, in addition to the prevention of severe disease and hospitalization, it’s nice that comirnaty has given us something to be lightly irritated at.

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