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Fauci is hopeful COVID-19 vaccines will receive FDA’s full OK within weeks

Anthony Fauci, seated at a table behind a nameplate that says "Dr. Fauci," gestures with his hands while speaking.
Top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, shown speaking before a Senate panel on July 20, predicts FDA approval of COVID-19 vaccines will spur vaccine mandates.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Pool Photo)

The U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Sunday he was hopeful the Food and Drug Administration would give full approval to the COVID-19 vaccine by month’s end and predicted the potential move would spur a wave of vaccine mandates in the private sector as well as at schools and universities.

The FDA has granted only emergency-use approval of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, but the agency is expected to soon give full approval to Pfizer.

The Biden administration has stated that the federal government will not mandate vaccinations beyond the federal workforce but is increasingly urging state and local governments as well as businesses to consider such mandates. Fauci, who is President Biden’s chief medical advisor, said “mandates at the local level need to be done” to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

“I hope — I don’t predict — I hope that it will be within the next few weeks. I hope it’s within the month of August,” Fauci said of FDA approval of the vaccine. “If that’s the case, you’re going to see the empowerment of local enterprises, giving mandates that could be colleges, universities, places of business, a whole variety, and I strongly support that. The time has come. ... We’ve got to go the extra step to get people vaccinated.”

L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn is the author of a motion that county supervisors are set to discuss that would consider a proof-of-vaccination policy.

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Fauci’s comments come as the Biden administration is weighing what levers it can push to encourage more unvaccinated Americans to get their shots as the Delta variant continues to surge through much of the United States.

Biden recently approved rules requiring federal workers to provide proof of vaccination or face regular testing, mask mandates and travel restrictions. Biden is also awaiting a formal recommendation from Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III on potentially requiring U.S. troops to be vaccinated.

The administration has become more vocal in its support of vaccine mandates at a moment when high-profile companies have informed employees that COVID-19 vaccination requirements are in the works, and some localities have adopted or are contemplating vaccine requirements to dine indoors.

United Airlines informed its employees that they would need to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 25 or five weeks after the FDA granted full approval to one of the vaccines — whichever date comes first.

Disney and Walmart have announced vaccine mandates for white-collar workers, and Microsoft, Google and Facebook said they would require proof of vaccination for employees and visitors to their U.S. offices. Tyson Foods also has announced it will require all U.S. employees to be vaccinated by November.

There’s been pushback.

The U.S. Supreme Court last week was asked to block a plan by Indiana University to require students and employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. It’s the first time the high court has been asked to weigh in on a vaccine mandate and comes as some corporations, states and cities also are contemplating or have adopted vaccine requirements for workers or even to dine indoors.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers union, said on Sunday that she personally supported a vaccine mandate for educators.

“As a matter of personal conscience, I think that we need to be working with our employers — not opposing them on vaccine mandates,” said Weingarten, who estimated about 90% of AFT members were already vaccinated.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, on Sunday all but endorsed vaccine mandates, saying, “I celebrate when I see businesses deciding that they’re going to mandate that for their employees.

“Yes,” Collins added, “I think we ought to use every public health tool we can when people are dying.”

Fauci and Weingarten spoke on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and Collins appeared on ABC’s “This Week.”


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