WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States started 2021 with a race to expand the reach of the COVID-19 vaccine.


What You Need to Know

  • The COVID-19 vaccine received emergency use authorization from the FDA months ago
  • The full approval process started for Pfizer in May and for Moderna in June
  • Full approval may lead to skeptical people getting vaccinated


Today it’s a much different story. Shots are widely available, but there aren’t enough people who want them.

The number of vaccinations in the U.S. has gone from an average of more than three million a day in March to less than a million, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

Duke University Faculty Fellow Dr. Nancy Allen LaPointe said some people still don’t understand the effectiveness of the vaccine.

“That’s a place where we really need to dissolve that misinformation,” Allen LaPointe said.

The Food and Drug Administration granted the vaccines emergency use authorization months ago. But the agency has yet to give full approval. That review process started in May for Pfizer and in June for Moderna.

Some medical professionals are asking, "why the wait?"

Brown University School of Public Health Dean Dr. Ashish Jha tweeted, “The data is in, and it’s clear. We need the FDA to fully approve the mRNA vaccines. It would help a lot.”

There is some evidence to support that. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll in May found that about a third of people who have not been vaccinated said they would more likely get vaccinated if one of the vaccines got full approval from the FDA.

“For some people that may be the thing they’re waiting for. They’re waiting for FDA approval, but I don’t think that’s the majority of people with vaccine hesitancy at this point. … I think there are lots of other reasons going into their reason to wait,” Allen LaPointe said.

But a full approval also would allow drug manufacturers to advertise their vaccines, and it could create legal support for some schools and employers to require the vaccine.

Allen LaPointe said she is not surprised the vaccines haven’t gotten full approval yet. She said the FDA is reviewing a lot of data, which takes time.

“I think we’re really too early in the process at this point,” Allen LaPointe said.

She also said the vaccines had to go through a rigorous review to get emergency authorization, so people should not be worried that the shots don’t have full approval yet.

The FDA released this statement:

"The FDA recognizes that vaccines are key to ending the COVID-19 pandemic and is working as quickly as possible to review applications for full approval.

"Although an authorization is not an FDA approval, the FDA conducted a thorough scientific evaluation of each of the authorized vaccines and can assure the public and medical community that the vaccines meet FDA’s rigorous standards for safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality."