Local health experts say FDA approval for Pfizer vaccine comes at a critical time

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CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WMBD) — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Pfizer’s version of the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, becoming the first vaccine to receive full approval for people ages 16 and older.

Now, local health leaders said it is coming at a critical point in the pandemic.

“This is a crowning achievement,” said Dr. Douglas Kasper, a section head of infectious disease at the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria Campus.

Pfizer’s version of the vaccine was first granted emergency use authorization last December. Now, Kasper said it has approval at the highest level.

“The efficacy and the safety of the vaccine has been studied in-depth and is fully approved for ages 16 and older,” said Kasper.

Kasper said FDA approval shows vaccines are working.

“It further confirms that vaccines are our ticket forward,” said Kasper.

He said the timing is key too, as the delta variant is more transmissible.

“It has led to a dramatic uptick not only in new cases but hospitalization of all ages groups including children,” said Kasper.

The virus is spreading locally, too.

“We have been seeing an increase in cases lately,” said Sara Sparkman, the communications manager at the Tazewell County Health Department.

In the fight against COVID-19, Sparkman said this approval helps combat vaccine hesitancy.

“Hopefully that gives some people the confidence that they need that this vaccine has been tested, it’s safe, it’s effective,” said Sparkman.

She said it is another tool in the toolbox to get more people vaccinated. While the approval is a step in the right direction, health experts said the pandemic is not over.

“We are consistently reviewing the results of vaccination across all areas of our country,” said Kasper.

He is hopeful the FDA could soon approve other COVID-19 vaccines like Moderna’s version too. With approval, Pfizer’s version of the vaccine is also now known as Comirnaty.

The vaccine is still available under emergency use authorization for kids ages 12 through 15.

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