COLUMBUS (WCMH) — With full FDA approval of the COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon, health experts are hoping that it will trigger a new wave of vaccinations in the state.
“These vaccines we have are not experimental,” said Dr. Joseph Gastaldo from OhioHealth. “I would say moving forward with the delta variant, the experiment is not getting vaccinated.”
Gastaldo said unvaccinated individuals he comes across commonly point to the vaccine not being fully approved as to why they haven’t gotten the shot. A fear, he says, is reflected in national polls as well.
While health leaders are hopeful that full FDA approval will encourage people all across the country to get vaccinated, Gastaldo believes the impact may be greatest in areas where the vaccine, and information about the vaccine, isn’t widely available.
“I think it’s going to be more of an impact in rural settings,” Gastaldo said. “If you look at rural counties and rural areas in Ohio, we have vaccine uptake in the 30-35% range, and based on my interaction with those communities, what’s stated is, the vaccine is not FDA approved. So, I’m hopeful in Ohio, we’ll see an uptick in under-vaccinated areas once the vaccine is approved.”
Experts say that, clinically, there isn’t much difference between Emergency Use Authorization and FDA Approval, and little will change with how the vaccines are administered.
More than 350 million doses have already been given nationwide and doctors say the benefits have proven to far outweigh any risks.
“The way the vaccine trials were done, and the way they were reviewed by three independent boards, is the gold standard for the world’s approval of vaccines,” Gastaldo said. “No other country in the world approves vaccines in the same detailed process the way we do.”
Businesses, schools, and universities could play a big role in boosting those vaccination numbers.
Doctors anticipate when full FDA approval is reached, more employers and organizations will begin requiring the vaccine for employees and students.
Human resources experts say there may be more legal protection for organizations once the vaccines are fully approved, but there are still a lot of variables to consider before going that route.
“You have to think about the impact on your team,” said Molly Eyerman, the founder and CEO of Vivo Growth Partners. “There is certainly the culture and moral impact, as well as thinking about people who may have medical or religious accommodations that might prohibit them from being able to have it. Everyone is kind of waiting to see who’s going to be the first one to take a leap into something different.”
Eyerman also said organizations have to think about compliance, tracking, the impact on their human resources department, and, most importantly, whether the benefits outweigh the staffing risks.
“I would think if that’s one of the reasons that owners are hesitant to require the vaccines, that would make them more comfortable,” Eyerman adds. “There are so many different factors that play into a business owner or organizations decision around making it required.”
Factors include the size of the organization, with Eyerman saying that small business owners face an even more difficult decision due to the risks of losing several staff members that are critical to their day-to-day operation.
Health officials say it is likely only a matter of weeks until the Pfizer vaccine receives full FDA approval, with Gastaldo anticipating it will happen no later than mid-September.