US Coronavirus: Full FDA approval for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will likely drive up vaccination rates, experts say


“This FDA approval cannot come a moment too soon,” said Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician and associate dean at the School of Public Health at Brown University. “I can’t overstate how important this is on multiple fronts.”

Because the vaccine has been distributed so far under emergency use authorization, a granting of full approval will help allay concerns with those who are vaccine hesitant, Ranney told CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield Saturday.

“With this full approval in hand, we’re going to have a chance to message again about the safety and effectiveness of this vaccine. We can help to fill the airwaves and the newspapers and social media with messages about what a difference this vaccine makes in terms of preventing hospitalization and death, even in the face of the Delta variant,” Ranney said.

Vaccination rates are on the upswing this week, with more than a million doses reported administered daily for the third day in a row Saturday. Such a feat has not occurred in the US since the first week of July, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But the more transmissible Delta variant is driving a steep rise in hospitalizations for those who are unvaccinated, and there are indications of spread among some vaccinated individuals. Because of this, the current rate of vaccination means that the pandemic in the US and worldwide is far from abating, former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden told CNN’s Jim Acosta Saturday.

“We’re encouraged by the increase in uptick of vaccines, but remember, you’ve got something like 90 million people not vaccinated. So, a million a day leaves you months and months of lots of people susceptible to severe illness or death,” Frieden said.

Approximately 70.8% of eligible Americans, those ages 12 and up, have received at least one dose of vaccine, leaving 29.2% or roughly 83 million people who have not, according to the CDC.

Covid-19 hospital crisis continues

More than 95,000 people in the US are hospitalized with Covid-19, according to data Saturday from the Department of Health and Human Services, and more than 23,000 are in ICU beds.
Several states, largely those that have lagged behind national rates of vaccination, are reporting hospitals reaching 100% capacity due to the latest Covid-19 surge.
Concerns over health care systems being able to handle the influx of patients are not only restricted to the physical number of beds, but also shortages in staffing due to an industry facing burnout and illness from the pandemic.

The number of patients in Mississippi requiring hospitalizations and ICU care reached record numbers this week, according to Gov. Tate Reeves, who is working with health officials to deploy additional staff and support to area hospitals.

“The fact is, it’s not a lack of beds,” Reeves said on Thursday. “It is a lack of staff.”

Reeves encouraged Mississippians to get vaccinated to help protect fellow residents. And elsewhere, acts needed to help others extend past vaccinations and mask-wearing.

In Florida, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer on Friday asked residents to conserve water as liquid oxygen — typically used to treat the community’s water supply — was being diverted to hospitals locally and statewide to treat critically ill Covid-19 patients.

“This is another impact of the virus continuing to surge in our community,” the mayor said in a Facebook post. “And it’s another result of what happens when residents do not get the vaccine and become critically ill, needing medical support and treatment.”
A healthcare worker puts a sticker on a resident that read in Spanish, "I got vaccinated against Covid-19" after receiving a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in Lake Worth, Florida, on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021.

Those at high-risk should avoid cruises for now, CDC says

People at high-risk for severe Covid-19, even if they’re vaccinated, are advised to stay off cruise ships, the CDC said in updated guidance Friday.

The close quarters on cruise ships have made them trouble spots for infections — not only Covid-19, but also viruses such as norovirus long before the pandemic.

Unvaccinated people are strongly urged to avoid such travel, the CDC said.

First US trial cruise testing Covid safety protocols sets sail

“If you are at increased risk for severe illness and considering cruise travel during the Covid-19 pandemic, discuss this type of travel with your healthcare professional. Older adults and people of any age with certain underlying medical conditions are more likely to get severely ill if they get Covid-19. People with weakened immune systems, including people who take medicines that suppress their immune systems, may not be protected even if fully vaccinated,” the CDC advised.

Anyone who has Covid-19 symptoms, was exposed within 14 days to someone who has Covid-19, or is awaiting results of a Covid-19 viral test should not board cruise ships, the CDC said.

The cruise industry has been battered by the Covid-19 pandemic and has made strides to try and provide safe travel for passengers. However, instances of infections have been recorded during trips.
The CDC has worked with cruise lines to authorize their operation and has posted a website with the status of infections on individual ships.

CNN’s Maggie Fox, Rebekah Riess and Jamie Gumbrecht contributed to this report.