Apparently it was big news Monday when the Food and Drug Administration gave "full approval" to one of the covid-19 vaccines. It made the top-of-the-hour news on the radio. The newspaper websites sent out emails. The networks led with it.
We don't understand everything we know about this.
Yes, it's a fine thing for the Pfizer vaccine to get "full approval" from the U.S. government--the strongest endorsement the FDA can give. The Associated Press says there's never been so much evidence to judge a vaccine's safety. More than 200 million Pfizer shots have been given in the United States alone, and hundreds of millions more around the world.
All these shots--and the one from Johnson & Johnson, and the two doses from Moderna--have been approved as "emergency use" vaccines. Yet more than half of all Americans lined up for them anyway, hoping to avoid the worst effects of covid-19.
The shots have worked swimmingly. They don't prevent a body from getting the covid-19 virus, but they do prevent a body from getting deathly ill and adding to the crises in the hospitals. It's sorta like the flu shot in that way. For years, people have known that a flu shot won't prevent somebody from getting the flu in 100 percent of cases, but the vaccine could keep them from dying from the blasted thing.
But that's reasoning. And it's been said before: You can't reason somebody out of an opinion if he hasn't been reasoned into it. And for some reason the covid-19 vaccine has had opposition that the flu shot never had.
Now that the FDA has given "full approval" to one of the shots, some expect that to make a world of difference. We note a Kaiser Family Foundation survey that showed 31 percent of those who haven't been vaccinated said they would be more likely to get the shot if "one of the vaccines currently authorized for emergency use received full approval from the FDA."
Really? A third of those who've so far refused a shot might give it another chance if the government issued the right paperwork? Somehow we find that hard to believe.
But we'd be willing to eat our words if the number of vaccinations spiked upward in the next week. What a story that would be! What fodder for editorialists! Our confidence in common sense would be restored.
"While millions of people have already safely received covid-19 vaccines," said the acting FDA commissioner, "we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated."
May it happen. Just like that.
Full approval is "more psychological than anything else," Dr. Paul Offit told NBC News. He's a voting member of the FDA's vaccine advisory committee. "I mean, you already have more than 320 million doses administered that are out there. The vaccines already have an enormous safety and efficacy profile."
Also, just to prepare you, the papers say "full approval" may open the doors to more mandates from employers. Businesses may decide with more confidence that they can mandate vaccines among employees. Although they've had the legal authority to run their businesses as they see fit, even in this way, the full approval might change thinking among the more hesitant business owners.
"You're going to see the empowerment of local enterprises, giving mandates that could be colleges, universities, places of business, a whole variety and I strongly support that," said Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Which brings us to politics again. And our doubts that millions of Americans, who haven't trusted the vaccines before now, were waiting for another level of government approval before they rolled up their sleeves to take the jab.
If that's the case, then the gates are open. Or at least the pharmacies are.
Let's do it. And prove the cynics (like us) wrong.