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teen gets pfizer covid-19 vaccine

Roberto Ortega, 16, awaits the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine administered by Registered Nurse Amy Berecz-Ortega from AltaMed Health Services in Los Angeles, California on August 17, 2021. (Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

American Medical Association Calls for Covid-19 Vaccine Mandates

"Help us win this fight, follow science, and end this pandemic by requiring vaccination."

Jessica Corbett

As hospitals in undervaccinated U.S. communities are dramatically overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients and new research is elevating concerns about the Delta variant, a major association for doctors on Tuesday called for vaccine mandates to end the pandemic.

That call from the American Medical Association (AMA) came a day after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine—one of three authorized for emergency use in the country—for people age 16 or older.

Noting the FDA's latest move, AMA president Dr. Gerald E. Harmon said in a statement that "the meticulously collected evidence from more than 100 million vaccinated Americans is clear: The vaccines we have to defeat Covid-19 are safe, effective, and the only way out of this pandemic."

Although over half of all Americans are now fully vaccinated, including 63% of all adults, Harmon highlighted that more must be done to get shots into arms:

For months, physicians have advocated for vaccination against Covid-19, urging our patients to take the step that will save their lives and protect those closest to them. States have even offered numerous incentives—from lotteries with a chance to win a million dollars or scholarship money to cash prizes. Vaccine supply is ample, and for months, access has been easier.

But these incentives have not gotten us where we need to be. With the highly transmissible and more virulent Delta variant wreaking havoc and emergency departments once again overwhelmed, physicians and all frontline healthcare workers need help. The way to regain the upper hand in this fight is requiring vaccinations—specifically vaccine mandates.

"The simple fact is unless a significant percentage of our population is vaccinated against Covid-19—we could be stuck fighting this virus for many more months or even years to come," Harmon warned. "Now is the time for the public and private sectors to come together, listen to the science, and mandate vaccination."

The AMA leader noted that his group "has robust policy on vaccine mandates—a tool that has been used across the U.S. and around the world for generations to defeat polio, measles, and other vaccine-preventable disease."

"And now, we urge similar mandates to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic," he said. "Physicians and frontline healthcare workers have taken tremendous risks during this pandemic, and we continue today risking our own safety and well-being—putting our families at risk—to treat mostly unvaccinated people afflicted with Covid-19. Help us win this fight, follow science, and end this pandemic by requiring vaccination."

In remarks Monday, President Joe Biden similarly emphasized the need to vaccinate Americans more quickly to save lives and noted that vaccine requirements are not new.

"Today I'm calling on more companies in the private sector to step up the vaccine requirements that'll reach millions more people," the president said. "If you're a business leader, a nonprofit leader, a state or local leader who has been waiting for full FDA approval to require vaccinations, I call on you now to do that—require it. Do what I did last month and require your employees to get vaccinated or face strict requirements."

In late July, Biden announced that all federal government employees and onsite contractors will be required to either attest that they have been fully vaccinated or wear a mask on the job no matter their location, physically distance from other employees and visitors, comply with a weekly or twice weekly testing, and be subject to travel restrictions.

The New York Times reported that within hours of the FDA's announcement about the Pfizer vaccine now known by the brand name Comirnaty, "the Pentagon, CVS, the State University of New York system, and the New York City school system, among others, announced that they would enforce mandates they had prepared to carry out but had made contingent" on the agency's final approval—unlike some governments and businesses that already implemented vaccine and testing requirements.

"As I said last week, vaccination requirements have been around for decades," Biden said Monday. "Students, healthcare professionals, our troops are typically required to receive vaccination to prevent everything from polio to smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella."

"In fact, the reason most people in America don't worry about polio, smallpox, measles, mumps, and rubella today is because of vaccines. It only makes sense to require a vaccine to stop the spread of Covid-19," the president added. "With today's FDA full approval, there's another good reason to get vaccinated. So, please get vaccinated now."

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