Nebraska Medicine, CHI Health discuss COVID-19 vaccine’s FDA approval
Doctors are applauding the approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccination, expressing hope that it helps encourage more to get the shot.
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Nebraska Medicine and CHI Health applauded the FDA’s approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Monday.
“This is extremely welcomed news and confirms what we have seen in more than 188 million doses that have been administered thus far — that it is safe and effective and our best path to ending the pandemic,” Dr. James Lawler said in a Facebook post from NebMed on Monday morning.
Dr. Lawler is the co-executive director of the Global Center for Health Security at UNMC and an infectious diseases specialist. He spoke with media via video conferencing Monday afternoon.
He said his only regret about Monday’s announcement was that it didn’t extend to children ages 12-15.
“I think that’s a very important demographic that we need to protect,” he said.
With more than eight months of experience with the vaccine — almost a year for those who signed up for the vaccine trials — Dr. Lawler said the research continues to prove it’s safe.
“There is ample evidence to support mandatory vaccines for schools, just as we do for many other routine vaccines,” he said, noting that he hopes these mandates lay the groundwork for vaccine passports to allow for safer areas and establishments within the community.
Dr. Lawler said he hopes the approval will encourage more to get vaccinated and take some of the pressure off the medical community, which is currently struggling with another surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations.
He said the politicizing of the pandemic “has been detrimental to all of us.”
“Unfortunately, politics has become a dominant topic that has been intertwined with everything about the pandemic from the epidemiology to the statistics we talk about, whether people believe them or not; to treatments to the vaccine itself. And that is obviously incredibly unfortunate because the virus really doesn’t care what political ilk you are and politics really should have nothing to do with combating a public health emergency,” Dr. Lawler said.
Dr. Lawler also talked about Nebraska Medicine’s new limitation on ER visitors, saying it provides additional justification for requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for employment or admission to certain venues or establishments.
“We’ve seen many businesses that have been waiting for this approval to implement more strict vaccine requirements, for employees or for customers and people visiting certain venues. I expect that we will see an increase in businesses that implement some kind of requirements now, and again that seems to be a clear trend nationwide,” he said. “I also hope that we’ll see that locally in Nebraska because we need to dramatically increase our vaccine coverage to keep our communities safe and to prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed. And I think that provides reassurance and safety for customers or employees who are going into workplaces or businesses.”
Dr. Lawler said he hopes the University of Nebraska also follows this trend of requiring vaccinations among students and staff, for their benefit and for the communities around them.
“It’s a very good public health decision,” he said.
Earlier on Monday, Dr. Cary Ward and Dr. Michael Schooff of CHI Health spoke about the FDA’s approval on a livestream with media in the afternoon.
“We’re thrilled. We’re extremely pleased,” Dr. Schooff said.
Dr. Ward, chief medical officer at CHI Health, said the initial hesitancy was understandable.
“We certainly have understood the concerns, the reticence about this vaccine. It is a fairly new vaccine. It is new technology,” he said.
Dr. Ward said he was certain the approval would lead to more and more vaccination mandates in businesses and government agencies.
“It makes everyone feel more comfortable that this is the right thing to do,” he said.
Dr. Schoof said such mandates are not setting any precedents.
“We’ve mandated, if you will, that people wear seatbelts when they drive a car. We’ve mandated that people not smoke cigarettes inside businesses. We’ve done things like this in the past,” he said, noting that in healthcare, vaccinations have been required before for influenza, tetanus, mumps, measles, rubella, and so on.
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