COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., (KRDO) - Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approved the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for people ages 16 and up. This is the first COVID-19 vaccine approved by the FDA, which will likely open the door to many more vaccine mandates.
In El Paso County at least 58.5 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the vaccine dashboard. A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation says nearly one-third of Americans were waiting on the FDA approval on one of the vaccines before they would feel comfortable getting the vaccine. While the three vaccines used in the U.S., Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson, were first put out as an emergency used authorization tool, an FDA approval could mean more businesses and employers may feel more confident in requiring the vaccine at their place of work.
"The Food and Drug Administration and its vaccine approval process is one of the strongest in the world, so I would feel very comfortable that the safety and efficacy has been established,” said Dr. Joel Tanaka with Peak Vista.
For Paulette Provost of Colorado Springs, the approval comes at a crucial time as case numbers increase.
“The excuse was, 'Well it hasn't been approved,' well it has now. For those who are not getting it, I really do not understand their thought process, but again, not gonna shame them," said Provost.
But some still remain hesitant.
“I personally have a strong immune system, I have survived COVID-19 and I do not believe that I need it,” said Dustin Johnson, a Colorado Springs resident.
As for employers, legal experts say they can require their employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The FDA approval makes their argument even stronger.
"This will add some more certainty for some employers who have been considering requiring the vaccine as a condition of employment, but did not want to do it as an emergency use authorization,” said employment lawyer, Ian Kalmanowitz.
The Pentagon says they plan to make the Pfizer vaccine mandatory for all U.S. military members, this applies to the significant population here in Southern Colorado.
Unless one has a valid and approved religious or medical exemption to not get vaccinated, an employee can get fired if they refuse to get vaccinated.
"Just saying you have religious objection is not enough, the employer will still have to accommodate you with some alterations at work that will allow you to perform your job without dealing with the vaccine requirement and risks associated," Kalmanowitz.