By Guy Page
Formal FDA approval of the Covid-19 vaccine is “many months” away, Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine said at the press conference today.
Vermont Daily asked the commissioner, “employers can’t mandate vaccination until after formal FDA approval. When do you think that FDA decision would be made? Weeks away? Months? What’s the timeline?”
“I honestly don’t know,” Levine said. “I don’t believe anyone knows.” There’s normally more than one study, the studies need to be long enough, and there needs to be ample time to evaluate the studies. “That usually means quite a few months. I would think it would be well into…(he paused)… many months.”
The question of formal FDA approval is important because employers and other institutions (such as colleges) cannot legally mandate vaccination until that vaccine has been granted formal FDA approval. The Pfizer vaccine distributed in Vermont today has been issued under “emergency use authorization.” Federal guidelines forbid compulsory vaccination under these circumstances.
As for today’s vaccine distribution – “Operation Warp Speed clearly lived up to its name,” Levine said. “This is a clearly pivotal moment for Vermont.” But Vermonters must continue observing health safety guidelines as vaccines are administered, he said.
Holiday gathering decision expected by end of week – Gov. Phil Scott said today he would decide by the end of the week whether to extend his holiday gathering and winter sports restrictions. He’s encouraged the total number of new positive cases “dipped down into the 60 range” yesterday. But – “One day doesn’t make a trend. We’ll have to see if that continues.”
“It won’t be back to normal, I can guarantee that,” Scott said. The more Vermonters adhere to guidelines now, “the quicker we’ll get out of this.” He’s worried that if Vermont takes the wrong steps now, we will pay for it in January and February. The governor hopes to “get back to some kind of normal in the spring.”
Gov. Scott also called the Stamford selectboard decision to hold a Christmas tree lighting public gathering “unfortunate in some respects.” He said he hopes they practiced good mask use and social distancing. “They did what they thought was appropriate and I hope others will learn from it,” he said.
As reported yesterday by Vermont Daily, the Stamford selectboard defied Gov. Phil Scott’s Covid-19 emergency orders Dec. 3 by not canceling a Dec. 4 public gathering: the traditional family-friendly lighting of the town Christmas tree in front of the local elementary school. The selectboard disliked Montpelier telling them what to do about public gatherings. As one selectboard told Rep. Laura Sibilia, the legislator for Stamford, “Laura, you took an oath to uphold the Constitution, I would imagine, and you guys are running over it along with the governor.”