COLUMBIA, S.C. ― Below is a statement from Dr. Edward Simmer, Director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for those ages 16 and older. This full approval from the FDA further indicates how safe and effective the vaccines are at preventing severe illness from COVID-19.
There continues to be an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for those ages 12-15, and an EUA for the Moderna and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccines for those ages 18 and older.
The key difference between full approval and an EUA is the length of time spent studying those who have received the vaccine, including a longer review period of data associated with any adverse events. Anyone who has remained hesitant about the vaccines should use this full approval as motivation to get the two-dose Pfizer vaccine as soon as possible.
The two-dose Moderna vaccine and single-shot Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccines are also incredibly effective in protecting against severe illness from COVID-19.
At this time, DHEC has no plans to require COVID-19 vaccinations for the 2021-2022 academic year in K-12 schools. However, all eligible South Carolinians should get fully vaccinated as soon as possible. Being fully vaccinated and wearing masks are by far the best ways to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, including the hypertransmissable Delta variant.
We continue to encourage vaccination and the use of masks, even among those who are fully vaccinated, until enough of the population is fully vaccinated and we can stifle this virus and its variants. Masks should be worn in any indoor group setting, including in schools and on buses, to help limit disease spread. Getting fully vaccinated and wearing masks are the best ways to protect our children and the teachers who care for them, and these are also the best tools we have for keeping our students physically in the classroom, where we know they thrive.
This full FDA approval supports the fact that the purpose of any vaccine is to protect human health and save lives. Please, get vaccinated as soon a possible and encourage your friends, families and coworkers to do the same. We all need to roll up our sleeves and fight COVID-19 together so we can end this pandemic once and for all.