The Journal Gazette
Saturday, July 24, 2021 1:00 am

Governors urge more to receive vaccine

Hope full OK from FDA cuts hesitancy

Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – As U.S. regulators weigh giving the final stamp of approval for certain COVID-19 vaccines, governors in states hard hit by the pandemic hope the move will help persuade the many holdouts in their states to finally get the shot.

The governors of Arkansas and Ohio – where cases and hospitalizations are climbing – have appealed publicly in recent days for full approval, saying it would help combat vaccine hesitancy and could also clear the way for more businesses to require their employees to be inoculated.

It's a topic that Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has confronted as he holds town halls throughout Arkansas, which leads the nation in new cases per capita but has one of the lowest vaccination rates. Only about 35% of the state's population is fully vaccinated.

“Anytime you have low vaccination rates, you want to eliminate every objection that people have, and one of the objections that's been expressed is that this is only approved under emergency use authorization,” said Hutchinson, who also recently took over as chairman of the National Governors Association.

All three vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. went through a fast-track approval process – but that didn't skip the normal massive testing required of any vaccine. Pfizer and Moderna have applied for full approval, and a Pfizer decision is expected soon.

The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines were studied in tens of thousands of people to show they prevented symptomatic coronavirus infections – especially serious illness – and that they were safe. Once widespread use began, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention beefed up usual surveillance to catch any side effects too rare to have occurred in even those large studies.

The FDA's acting commissioner, Dr. Janet Woodcock, was asked by a Senate committee this week about people hesitant to get a vaccine that wasn't fully approved.

“We did not cut any corners,” she replied. “Compared to other vaccines they'd be looking at, these have really gotten the full-court press as far as evaluation and study.”

In Ohio, with less than half the population vaccinated, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has been exhausting every avenue to get shots in people's arms. The state recently completed a five-week $1 million lottery drawing for adults or a full-ride scholarship to an Ohio university for those under 18 who receive their first COVID-19 shot.

Last week, DeWine announced plans for an incentive that gives smaller amounts of money to increase the odds of more winners. But that's on hold as the governor and his administration urge full FDA approval to appease a segment of the unvaccinated who might budge.

“That is one of the stated reasons that we hear most often from people who are not getting vaccinated,” DeWine said of his conversations with residents across the state. “And my concern is that the FDA not moving from emergency use to full approval, some people are not being vaccinated who would be vaccinated and those people are going to die.”

In Ohio, GOP Sen. Andrew Brenner pushed through a last-minute provision that would prohibit state public schools and universities from mandating vaccines without full FDA approval.

“When I introduced this amendment, I'm looking at it from individual liberty,” Brenner said. But, he added, “while it has been given emergency use authorization, typical vaccines take about 10 years of trials and testing to know the side effects and everything.”

The FDA has never before had as much evidence to use in deciding whether to approve a vaccine as it has for the Pfizer and Moderna shots. More than 188 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been given in the U.S., and more than 137 million doses of the Moderna vaccine. The FDA also can consider evidence from multiple other countries that are successfully using the shots.

Pfizer recently announced that the FDA deemed its application eligible for “priority review” and would decide no later than January. But the agency is widely expected to finish its work far sooner.

Full approval carries the FDA's strongest endorsement of a product, and, among other steps, usually requires six months of safety follow-up. For emergency use, the agency required two months of follow-up, the period when side effects are most likely. The agency also will perform detailed inspections of vaccine manufacturing plants.


Most unvaccinated to remain so: Poll

Most Americans who haven't been vaccinated against COVID-19 say they are unlikely to get the shots and doubt they would work against the aggressive delta variant despite evidence they do, according to a new poll that underscores the challenges facing public health officials amid soaring infections in some states.

Among American adults who have not yet received a vaccine, 35% say they probably will not, and 45% say they definitely will not, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Just 3% say they definitely will get the shots, though 16% say they probably will.

Europe urges Moderna for 12 and over

LONDON – The European Medicines Agency on Friday recommended authorizing Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 17, the first time the shot has been authorized for people younger than 18.

The EU drug regulator said research in more than 3,700 children ages 12 to 17 showed that the Moderna vaccine – already given the OK for adults across Europe – produced a comparable antibody response. Until now, the vaccine made by Pfizer and German partner BioNTech has been the only option for children as young as 12 in North America and Europe.

Share this article

Email story

Subscribe to our newsletters

* indicates required