ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday granted full approval to the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for people age 16 and older, which could encourage vaccine-hesitant Americans to get their shots and pave the way for more businesses and organizations to mandate vaccinations against the disease.
The FDA said Pfizer will market the vaccine as Comirnaty, to prevent COVID-19 disease in people 16 years of age and older. The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA), including for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals, the agency said.
“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 … will actually help them to move forward with those kinds of plans,” U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told CNN.
Murthy said “a small number of people” have been holding out for full FDA approval before getting inoculated and believes “this may tip them over toward getting vaccinated,” CNN reports.
Moderna has applied for full approval for its COVID-19 vaccine for 18-year-olds and older.
Some employers such as Tyson Foods, Walmart and Uber Technologies have already said they are requiring certain employees to be vaccinated unless they have approved exceptions for medical or religious reasons, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Employers can legally require employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine, and about 51% of Americans are fully vaccinated as of Aug. 19, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
Foodservice providers should require their workers to get vaccinated, according to franchise expert and consultant Joel Libava.
Foodservice operations must require vaccines along with proof "if you want to beef up your chances of being in business this time next year," said Libava, also known as the Franchise King, in a recent blog post. Although he understands why some businesses may hesitate to require vaccines for employees, it's a "now or never" situation,” he said, if owners want to avoid the difficulties the nation experienced last winter.
Business closures are still happening because of COVID-19 outbreaks. A South Carolina Apple store recently closed temporarily after 20 associates were exposed to COVID-19, and three Walmart stores in New Orleans were shuttered temporarily for the same reason.
"You're handling food, and you're dealing with the public," Libava said. Food and retail are some of the most dangerous industries for workers when it comes to contracting COVID-19, with cooks at especially high risk, according to research from The University of San Francisco. In the end, the benefits of a vaccinated workforce outweigh potential short-term difficulties, he added.
Meanwhile, mask mandates are returning. According to the LATimes.com, Los Angeles County wants everyone attending large outdoor evenings, such as concerts, festivals and sports games, to wear a mask, even if they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19. The order applies to outdoor events that attract more than 10,000 people, and attendees must “wear face masks at all times, except when actively eating or drinking.”
Don’t forget to register to attend the 2021 NACS Show October 5-8, at McCormick Place in Chicago and take advantage of the education sessions on the “new normal,” including the sessions Meeting Consumers Where They Are—Everywhere and A New Approach to Dayparts on October 5, Moving Forward in the Post-Pandemic Economy and Drive-Thru and Curbside: Is This the Future for C-Stores? on October 6 and Moving On: Easing Guests Post Pandemic Fears on October 7.
NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.