What does full approval of COVID-19 vaccine mean?

As the nation's vaccine rates flatline, the Food and Drug Administration is preparing to give full approval to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. But what does that mean and how is it different from what's already in place?

Health experts all agree that the best way out of the COVID-19 pandemic is to get as many people vaccinated against the virus as possible. But millions of Americans are declining the vaccine and some are saying they're waiting for final FDA approval - which could come soon.

The United States' has vaccinated less than 60 percent of the eligible population against COVID-19 since the vaccine first received emergency use authorization from the FDA in late 2020. A full approval could be coming in time for the new school year, according to President Joe Biden.

While that may give some who are skeptical of getting the vaccine confidence, Doctor Matthew Sims - the director of infectious diseases research at Beaumont Health System - says there's not much of a difference.

"A full approval says emergency or not, you can use this," Dr. Sims said. "It’s just collecting more data, make sure how well does it or work in the real world."

Medical experts say the vaccine has been proven to be both safe and effective in fighting COVID-19 but many Americans are hesitant and some say they're waiting for full approval.

Dr. Sims says as long as they get the vaccine - that's what matters.

"If they are willing to get it once the full stamp of approval, great. The more people vaccinated the better," he said.

Some employers, particularly hospitals, are already requiring their employees to get the vaccine. Dr. Sims said it's possible more businesses and organizations follow suit once full approval is complete.

"I think it’s something that will be decided by the board of directors, the medical advisors, etc. but once we see more doing it, I think others will jump in," he said.

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