A Monday the FDA provided final approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. Dr. Janet Woodcock (acting FDA Director) noted that in the FDA’s “efforts to move as quickly as possible” in approving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine did not “sacrifice scientific standards, or the integrity of our process.”
Maybe the most noteworthy part of the announcement was that Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, felt compelled to address misinformation being spread about the vaccine. He mentioned theories that the vaccines cause infertility, contain microchips and can cause infections and death. “Let me be clear: these claims are simply not true,” Marks said.
Within hours, news outlets that had been criticizing the FDA for taking “too long” to approve the vaccine started to hypothesize that the approval was “rushed.”
One of the most entertaining exchanges was on Fox News, where Dana Perino interviewed former Trump appointee Brett Giroir, architect of the disastrous COVID testing program in the US. She first asked him if the approval was rushed and he responded definitively no. He then immediately credited the Pfizer vaccine to the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed. In actuality, Pfizer developed its vaccine without any support from the federal government (other than the federal government agreeing to purchase it.) Right after Giroir lauded the vaccine’s approval, Fox’s co-host Bill Hemmer asked, “What took so long?” Remarkably, it did appear that Hemmer and Perino were sitting next to each other!
At the same time new studies show the vaccine still holds up well against the delta variant. Unvaccinated people in Los Angeles County were five times as likely to become infected with the coronavirus and 29 times as likely to be hospitalized as people who were fully immunized, newly released data from California show.
In contrast, the protection against infection dropped as delta became the predominant strain. Where before delta unvaccinated individuals were 8 times more likely to be infected, they now were only 5-6 times more likely. This shows that the vaccines are maintaining their protection against illness and death but are are allowing more infections (although less serious in nature).
Only 24 fully vaccinated patients in Los Angeles have died of covid-19. These patients had a median age of 78 and 25% of them were immunocompromised. Booster shots in the elderly may reduce these numbers. In contrast, the median age of the 176 unvaccinated people who died was 63.
So despite attacks by the press and the delta variant, the COVID vaccines are holding their own!