What could make mandates easier? Full approval of COVID-19 vaccines

Calls are rising from some experts for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to move faster to fully approve the COVID-19 vaccines, in what could be a key step to address vaccine hesitancy.

As the vaccination rate lags, with the country on pace to miss President Biden’s goal of vaccinating 70 percent of adults by July 4, polling indicates full approval could help convince some of the remaining unvaccinated people to get the shots.

Some unvaccinated people view the current emergency use authorizations for the vaccines as an indicator they are still experimental and not fully tested, despite the rigorous process that went into those authorizations.

Pfizer began submitting data for full approval May 7, but it is unclear when the FDA will act, leading to calls to pick up the pace. Moderna applied later, on June 1, for full approval for its vaccine. Like most everything FDA has done throughout the pandemic, there’s a balancing act between urgency and thoroughness.

One potential issue: either the data submission, or review, may not be complete.

Experts said the agency has a large amount of data to sort through, which simply takes time.

“If they hurry it up and don’t complete their review very carefully, that will actually have the opposite effect,” said Jesse Goodman, a former FDA chief scientist now at Georgetown University. “I think that would really undermine confidence.”