WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday granted full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. It is the first Covid-19 vaccine to receive the designation from the FDA.

For the unvaccinated, the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is now available for all Americans over the age of 16 years, including American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs). The vaccine continues to be available under emergency use authorization for Native youth ages 12-15 years and certain immunocompromised persons who are receiving a third dose.

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Leading medical experts hope the full-approval designation from the FDA will convince those who have been vaccine hesitant to receive the vaccine. 

Pfizer’s formal approval marks an important milestone in the fight against COVID-19 for our Tribal communities,” according to a statement released on Monday by the National Indian Health Board. “Full FDA approval provides confidence in the safety and efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine and will encourage hesitant American Indian and Alaska Native people to get vaccinated.”

“According to vaccination data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 170 million people in the United States are fully vaccinated. Of those More than 92 million have received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which is sold under the Comirnaty brand name. 

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“While millions of people have already safely received COVID-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated. Today’s milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S.” Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said.

According to the CDC’s race/ethnicity data, just over one million AI/ANs are fully vaccinated. Indian Country has done a remarkable job vaccinating Tribal citizens, according to some reports. For example, the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi had 70 percent of its vaccine eligible citizens fully vaccinated as early as May 2021.

All three vaccines, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson are available for use in Indian Health Service (IHS) facilities and tribal health systems.

As the more contagious Delta variant spreads, the announcement of the full FDA approval is another step forward as IHS, tribal healthcare providers, and tribal public health professionals continue to protect elders, children, and those who cannot be vaccinated against Covid-19.

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