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How Pfizer's FDA approval could influence Mainers to get COVID vaccine

NEWS CENTER Maine speaks with locals and some of Maine's top health officials about how the full FDA approval will impact COVID vaccination rates in Maine

PORTLAND, Maine — The vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech now carries the strongest endorsement from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

On Monday, August 23, the Pfizer vaccine received full approval from the FDA, after it had been in use for the last nine months under emergency approval.

A June survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that 3 in 10 unvaccinated adults would be more likely to get the shots if one of the vaccines received FDA approval.

Currently, more than 70% of eligible Mainers are fully vaccinated. Whether this Pfizer vaccine news will actually make a difference to the remaining 30%, remains to be seen.

Northern Light Health's Dr. James Jarvis said it's too soon to predict what the impact will be.

"It's hard to say," Jarvis said Monday, "and we probably won't know for a week or so whether that will translate to people changing their minds."

However, the full approval from the FDA will likely influence vaccine mandates, according to Dr. Dora Mills of Maine Health. 

Dr. Mills said Monday, "I think we'll see a lot more places-- particularly private industries-- mandating vaccinations because they're going to feel more comfortable with it having full approval."

Following a national trend, vaccination rates in Maine bottomed out back in July, but as the delta variant spreads across the state, filling hospital beds, the Maine CDC reports vaccinations have been on the rise again throughout August.

"I think people are now more and more hearing about people and know people who have had COVID and they realize that they better get vaccinated or they're going to get COVID," Dr. Mills said. 

On Monday, 123 people in Maine are hospitalized with COVID-19, 61 are being treated in ICUs, and 25 are on ventilators. The vast majority are unvaccinated. 

Meanwhile, Maine hospitals remain prepared to vaccinate anyone who wants to be.

"Here in the state of Maine, we have a very adequate supply of the Pfizer vaccine," Dr. Jarvis said. 

Dr. Mills said, "The great news is we have plenty of vaccine."

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