Adding to expert confidence over the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC announced this week that its advisory committee on immunization has given the vaccine a “unanimous recommendation” for those ages 16 and up.
The committee’s 14-0 vote came a week after the FDA gave the Pfizer vaccine full approval.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) provides advice and guidance to the director of the CDC regarding use of vaccines and related agents for control of vaccine-preventable diseases in the civilian population of the U.S.
Recommendations made by the ACIP are reviewed by the CDC director and, if adopted, are published as official CDC recommendations.
Following the news, Michigan’s health officials are pushing more residents to get vaccinated amidst a rise in the cases from the highly-infectious Delta variant, seemingly confirming that at least some vaccine hesitancy arose out of the emergency authorization of the vaccines before a full approval was completed.
The Michigan Department of Health and Humans Services (MDHHS) is renewing its call to Michiganders to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
“We now have a fully FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine and ACIP has added its unanimous recommendation,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at the MDHHS. “For Michiganders who have been waiting for this approval, now is the time to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine and join the more than 4.7 million Michigan residents who are already fully vaccinated. The vaccine is our best defense against the virus and the way we are going to end this pandemic together.”
For full approval, the FDA asks to see six months of data to ensure there are no widespread problems or to detect adverse reactions as part of a “biologics license application.” Pfizer applied for the license in May and Moderna began its application in June, while Johnson & Johnson said it will begin the process later this year.
Though the rise in cases and especially hospitalizations is linked to unvaccinated populations, breakthrough cases are still detected in those vaccinated, though the disease’s effects are greatly diminished by the vaccine. Last month, Ali Abazeed, public health advisor with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told The Arab American News that breakthrough infections were always anticipated and vaccines still remain the strongest weapon against the pandemic.
“The vaccines work,” Abazeed said. “Endless news cycles and reports of ‘breakthrough infections’ often leave the mistaken impression that the vaccines are not working. This is not correct and the vaccines remain powerfully protective against severe illness, hospitalization and death, which is what they were designed to do.”
The Pfizer vaccine was the first COVID-19 vaccine to be distributed in December and was shown to be better than 94 percent effective against the virus that causes COVID-19.
Vaccinating adolescents 12-15 with the Pfizer vaccine and additional doses of Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for immunocompromised individuals remain under Emergency Use Authorization.
The ACIP plans to meet in September to further discuss recommendations for booster doses after reviewing additional data.
The MDHHS says that nearly 5.5 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been administered in Michigan to date and more than 65 percent of Michiganders have gotten at least their first dose of one of the three vaccines.
From January to July, unvaccinated Michiganders accounted for 98 percent of COVID-19 cases, 95 percent of hospitalizations and 96 percent of deaths.