What full FDA approval for the Pfizer vaccine means for the Valley

Coronavirus

HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order 38 stops health authorities from implementing vaccine mandates for drugs under an emergency use authorization. On Monday, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine received full authorization from the FDA.

The health authorities for Hidalgo and Cameron counties stressed there wasn’t any change to the vaccine itself that prompted this reclassification.

The way to think about this is enough time has gone by to show the vaccine is as safe and effective as doctors have said for a year.

“So, people that were using that excuse of ‘it’s an experimental drug, we don’t know enough about it’, well that just went out the window,” said Dr. Ivan Melendez, the Hidalgo County health authority.

The Texas Health and Safety Code section 81.082 allows health authorities to implement control measures to preserve public health during a public health disaster that would allow them to require immunizations to disease.

Neither Hidalgo nor Cameron County will mandate people get a COVID vaccine.

Dr. James Castillo, the Cameron County health authority, said there is a misunderstanding on what a vaccine mandate means.

“‘Mandates’ is not somebody forcing a vaccine into a person physically,” Castillo explained. “It’s more saying we have the right to say if you don’t have the vaccine, then you cannot do these things.”

Again, neither of the two counties will enact a vaccine mandate. The full authorization does allow businesses more legal footing to require employees to get vaccinated.

Texas is an at-will state, which means businesses could always have fired employees for refusing to get vaccinated if the business required them to. Even when all the available COVID vaccines were under Emergency Use Authorization.

While some businesses may go that route, Castillo said he expects that “you’re most likely to see this is gonna be at the restriction of privileges” rather than outright firings.

Some hospitals are already requiring employees to get vaccinated in order to work. Last week, DHR Health announced mandatory vaccines for all employees. Now that the Pfizer vaccine has full FDA approval, other businesses could hop on that trend.

“Potentially other employers start to mandate a vaccine as a condition of employment and treat it like you would any other vaccine, which would account for medical exemptions, religious exemptions,” Castillo said.

Doctors are hopeful the full approval could persuade people waiting to get the vaccine to get the jab, but Melendez said he’s worried the approval will not be enough to convince everyone.

He said people “will start once again saying ‘oh it was approved under pressure from the government’” as an excuse to not get vaccinated.

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