Surgeon General: What full approval for vaccine will mean
07:17 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

President Joe Biden on Monday urged Americans who have been waiting for full approval from the US Food and Drug Administration to go get vaccinated against Covid-19 hours after the FDA approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for those ages 16 and older.

“If you are one of the millions of Americans who said they will not get the shot until it has full and final approval of the FDA, it has now happened. The moment you’ve been waiting for is here, it’s time for you to go get your vaccination, and get it today. Today,” Biden said, speaking from the White House.

The President said the full FDA approval was “an important moment in our fight against the pandemic,” and said: “The FDA approval is the gold standard.”

Biden called on leaders in the private and public sector to implement vaccine requirements, saying it will push millions more Americans to get vaccinated.

“If you’re a business leader, a nonprofit leader, a state or local leader, who has been waiting for full FDA approval to require vaccinations, I call on you now to do that. Require it,” he said.

The President noted vaccine requirements have been around for decades and that students, health care professionals and US troops are typically required to get vaccinated against polio, smallpox, measles, mumps and rubella.

Biden warned against the dangers of the Delta variant, which is ripping through parts of the country with low vaccination rates and driving up hospitalizations and deaths. He urged Americans who have opted not to get the shot to reconsider in order to protect their loved ones and their communities.

Many children are not eligible to get any of the Covid-19 vaccines, and Biden said he would address the nation “soon” with Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona about Covid-19 cases among children and how his administration will help get kids back in school safely. For now, Biden said, parents can help keep their kids safe by ensuring everyone around their children are vaccinated, and that their children wear masks when they leave home.

Biden thanked the acting FDA commissioner, Janet Woodcock, and her team for their hard work poring over data as they “followed the science.” Biden noted Woodcock is a career scientist who has served under both Republican and Democratic presidents.

The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is the first coronavirus vaccine to be fully approved by the FDA – the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines remain under emergency use authorization – and the announcement is expected to open the door to more vaccine mandates.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said during a briefing on Monday the Department of Defense would move forward with requiring all US military service members to be vaccinated now that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has full FDA approval.

Also on Monday morning, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a Covid-19 vaccine mandate for all education department staff for all public schools across the city without a testing alternative, becoming the largest school system in the US to do so.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been authorized for emergency use in the United States since mid-December for people age 16 and older. In May, the authorization was extended to those 12 and older. Out of more than 170 million people in the United States fully vaccinated against Covid-19, more than 92 million have received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that approval could encourage more people to get vaccinated, and more mandates.

“For businesses and universities that have been thinking about putting vaccine requirements in place in order to create safer spaces for people to work and learn, I think that this move from the FDA, when it comes, will actually help them to move forward with those kinds of plans,” Murthy told CNN’s Brianna Keilar.

Last month, Biden announced all federal employees must attest to being vaccinated against Covid-19 or face strict protocols including regular testing, masking, limits on official travel and other mitigation measures. Contractors working for the federal government will also be subject to the new rules.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Jacqueline Howard contributed to this report.