Long-term care providers are hopeful that the Food and Drug Administration’s full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will help increase vaccine confidence among its workers and ultimately lead to hesitant staffers being more willing to get the two-dose regimen. 

Pfizer’s vaccine on Monday became the first in the U.S. to receive full approval from the FDA and will now be marketed as “Comirnaty” as its new brand name. Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D., said that with this being the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine “the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product.”

LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan

LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan hopes that same message will resonate with skeptic workers in the industry. 

“This is a significant step forward in the ongoing fight against COVID-19,” Sloan told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Monday. “We believe that full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine will help to ease concerns among some vaccine hesitant staff and others and result in increased vaccination rates not only in nursing homes, but in every healthcare setting and communities across the nation.” 

Sloan said access to the COVID-19 vaccine has been the most important development of the pandemic for seniors and those that care for them. 

“Universal vaccination is the only way to protect older Americans and their caregivers,” she said. 

Ramping up the power

Representatives with the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living added that they’re optimistic this move will increase “vaccine confidence and persuade many hesitant individuals to now roll up their sleeves.” 

“We strongly encourage all long-term care staff, residents and members of the community who have yet to get vaccinated to do so as soon as possible, especially in light of the highly contagious delta variant,” the association told McKnight’s Monday. “The vaccines are safe and effective, and the best tool we have to protect our nation’s most vulnerable and bring an end to this pandemic.” 

The FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine also comes as new data revealed the company’s third dose was highly effective in reducing seniors’ risk of infection. 

The investigation, which is being led by Israel’s health ministry, has found that the booster shot offers up to four times as much protection against a coronavirus infection, when compared to the first two shots, in seniors 60 and older, the Washington Post reported. It was also five to six times more effective in preventing serious hospitalization and illness.

The findings could help instill more confidence among the sector’s experts that a booster shot will be helpful for long-term care residents. Federal health officials last week announced that the group will be among the first to receive COVID-19 booster shots once distribution begins.