U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021.
Pete Marovich | Bloomberg | Getty Images
President Joe Biden on Monday once again urged more Americans to get vaccinated against Covid-19, saying the majority of deaths and hospitalizations in the U.S. due to the virus are among the unvaccinated.
“Those who have been waiting for full approval should go get your shot now,” Biden said during a White House press briefing hours after the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for people 16 and up.
He said the U.S. agency evaluated “mountains” of clinical trial data and concluded, “without question,” that the Covid shot was safe and highly effective.
“The overwhelming majority of people in the hospital with Covid-19 or almost all those dying from Covid-19 are not vaccinated, not vaccinated,” he told reporters. “If you’re fully vaccinated – both shots, plus two weeks– your risk of severe illness with Covid-19 is very, very low.”
FDA scientists evaluated “hundreds of thousands of pages” of vaccine data from 40,000 trial participants before granting approval, according to the U.S. agency. The two-dose vaccine was found to be 91% effective in preventing Covid – slightly lower than the 95% efficacy rate trial data showed when the shot was authorized late last year and before the delta variant took hold in the U.S.
Up until now, the mRNA vaccine, which will be marketed as Comirnaty, was on the U.S. market under an emergency use authorization that was granted by the FDA in December. Since then, more than 204 million of the Pfizer shots have been administered, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Biden’s latest plea comes as coronavirus cases continue to sure nationwide, filled by the highly contagious delta variant. The president said U.S. health officials are starting to see early signs that new cases may be declining in a few regions of the nation. Still, he said, cases are rising overall, particularly among the unvaccinated.
U.S. officials maintain vaccination is the best tool to fight off rising cases. As of Sunday, about 51% of the total U.S. population is fully vaccinated against Covid, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
U.S. approval is expected to spur a new wave of vaccine mandates from corporate America and schools. Major companies have already told some or all of their employees that they must get fully vaccinated against Covid this fall. Still, some private businesses and other institutions may have felt hesitant about requiring the shots before full approval, even though they had the legal authority to do so, health experts say.
Earlier Monday, New York City officials said they are now requiring all 148,000 public school faculty and staff to get their Covid-19 vaccine shots this fall. They had previously said employees could avoid the vaccines if they submitted to regular weekly Covid testing.
During his speech, Biden called on other schools and businesses to mandate the vaccine.
“All around the world, people want these vaccines here in America,” he said. “They’re free, convenient and waiting for you. So please go today, for yourself, for your loved ones for your neighbors for your country.”
–CNBC’s Rich Mendez and Bob Towey contributed to this report.