TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — The FDA fully approved Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine on Monday, marking an extraordinary step in the pandemic, as health officials and lawmakers rejoice over the move.
Dr. Joan Duwve, deputy state health officer with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, told the Kansas Capitol Bureau that the state is hoping more people will get vaccinated with at least one of the vaccines being fully approved.
“What we’re seeing is that the vaccine is safe and effective, and the FDA has highlighted the safety and efficacy by giving it full approval,” Dr. Duwve said.
As of Monday, CDC data shows that less than half, 47.3%, of the state’s total population has been fully vaccinated. In addition, Dr. Duwve said she’s heard from some people who have held off getting the vaccine until it’s been fully approved.
The Pfizer vaccine was previously approved for Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA. However, Duwve said now there’s been a “robust” amount of data and information collected, the full stamp of approval reiterates that the vaccine works.
“There are people for whom they were just waiting for FDA approval. There are others we know who are not quite there yet,” she said.
However, Dr. Duwve said those who are still waiting to decide whether to get a vaccine may not have time, especially as the highly contagious delta variant spreads.
State data released Monday shows that 2,786 delta variant cases have been identified in Kansas.
Hospital ICUs are filling up, and healthcare workers in the state are being “stretched to the max,” scrambling to take care of patients facing severe illness and death.
Some funeral homes in the state are seeing an increase in people coming in for services as deaths rise.
John Newcomer, funeral director and president of Newcomer Funeral Service Group in Topeka, said they don’t hear from many families in the late spring and summer. But now, that’s changed.
“It has risen again, and we’re serving several families that have experienced a death related to COVID,” he said. “We’ll probably see a higher number of deaths related to COVID. Last winter, at times, our staff and our facilities were simply overwhelmed.”
State health officials, like Dr. Duwve, said that death is an unfortunate tragedy that can be prevented if people get vaccinated.
“We got to do the right thing. We got to do it for ourselves. But also, do it for our kids, who don’t yet have this opportunity.”