The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for use by individuals 16 and older will not alter anything in regards to Cal State Fullerton’s vaccination mandate, said Ellen Treanor, the associate vice president for strategic communications.
“So, this doesn't change anything. It would have, with the original policy, this would have been a huge change. Actually what's great is that we're at a place now, already, that we would have been scrambling to get to,” she said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration officially approved the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Aug. 23, but because of the CSU’s decision to forgo full approval with their vaccination mandate, Treanor said that the announcement will not change much for students on campus.
The CSU joined the UCs in April as it announced that all students and faculty are required to be vaccinated for the 2021 fall semester pending FDA approval of one or more of the vaccines.
When cases began to surge that summer, CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro announced that faculty and staff would need to be vaccinated in order to return to campus, even if the vaccine had not been given full approval.
Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. announced the approval in a press release, saying that the milestone “puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S.”
While approval usually takes between eight to 12 months, the FDA used an “all hands on deck” strategy to expedite the process without sacrificing their usual standards of evaluation. Full approval was granted to the Pfizer vaccine just 97 days after it was submitted for review.
This move comes amid an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations driven in large part by the spreading of the delta variant. The majority of new cases involve unvaccinated individuals, who had a 708% higher case rate a couple weeks ago, according to the California Department of Public Health Twitter page.
Pfizer’s vaccine has been available under Emergency Use Authorization for individuals 16 and older since December 2020 and for individuals ages 12 to 15 since May 2021. So far, Pfizer is the only vaccine to be granted full approval by the FDA, although both the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are still available under Emergency Use Authorization.
“To win our nation's fight against the pandemic once and for all, each of us has a role to play and it is imperative that we all do our part,” Castro said in a press release from Aug. 23. “I thank everyone who is doing their part to protect themselves — and to protect all of us — as our state and nation continue down the path of full economic recovery.”
Last week, the number of students who have uploaded proof of vaccination jumped significantly, Treanor said. She said that this is the largest increase since the university began accepting vaccine records. Treanor also said this may be due partly to a recent vaccine clinic on campus that served over 500 individuals.
Students who are not fully vaccinated by the Sept. 30 deadline will be subject to disciplinary action. Until then, students who have not uploaded proof of vaccination will need to submit to weekly coronavirus tests on campus.
Free testing is also available for vaccinated students and faculty who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or fear they may have been exposed. Treanor said that the university has no plans to require testing for vaccinated students.
In addition to testing and vaccine mandates, the university is still taking further precautions, like requiring face coverings while indoors. Associated Students President Josh Mitchell said that the surge in cases caused them to move their first board meeting online.
Students looking for more information on vaccine requirements or information on how to get vaccinated can visit the Titans Return: COVID-19 recovery website. The university will also be hosting vaccine clinics operated by the Orange County Health Department in the Titan Gym on Sept. 10 and 13.