CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) — The record pace at which COVID-19 vaccines were developed led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to grant them emergency use authorization. That action saved many lives from a disease that has killed more than 600,000 thousand Americans and 4 million around the world.
“As you know, tens of millions of people have received this vaccine. There are enormous numbers of studies both in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Israel, and others, demonstrating this vaccine is highly effective and very safe,” said UNC School of Medicine immunologist David Weber.
Weber said the argument to wait until full FDA approval to get a shot isn’t a good excuse.
“Well, first of all, we know more about the safety and effectiveness of this vaccine than any other vaccine we knew about before it was FDA approved,” he said.
While it’s known that the current vaccines last at least six months to a year, it’s too early to know how much longer they will hold up. Weber doesn’t think that’s enough reason to wait for full FDA approval, particularly with the future availability of booster shots.
“So, I think we have enough information, from my standpoint, for the FDA to fully approve it. However, they may wish to wait for some other additional length of time to assess durability, and it’s hard to judge whether they would want to wait for another six months or several more years,” he said.
Six months to multiple years is a long time for the delta variant to spread and new variants to develop, allowing more people to get sick and die.
“It is true that younger people tend to have more mild disease, but that may not be true with the delta variant,” Weber said. “And, in fact, data from the U.K. shows the growth of people having symptoms or being hospitalized is largely younger individuals there. Plus, by them becoming immunized, they protect their friends, their colleagues, their parents. So, they should absolutely be immunized as well.”
Weber said the FDA may also be waiting on additional data regarding the vaccine’s effect on those who are immunocompromised, like transplant patients. He said other vaccines have been approved in the past without similar data.