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Blog COVID-19 in Maryland

Employer Mandates Could Expand Following FDA Approval of Vaccine, Health Chief Says

With the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expected to give full approval to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine soon — perhaps as early as Monday — employers inclined to require their workers to get vaccinated will have a more sound basis for doing so, Maryland Health Secretary Dennis R. Schrader said.

Schrader spoke shortly after news broke on Friday that the full approval is imminent.

Pfizer’s Covid vaccine has been available since December under an “emergency-use authorization.”

The agency would not comment on the reports.

But the news prompted broad speculation that the move will lead to a significant number of employers and universities imposing vaccination requirements.

“We’ve been saying that all along,” Schrader said. “That’s been consistent with our message that employers need to take charge — and we believe when this happens that’ll make it much more viable.”

With cases in some states spiking and the more virulent delta variant accounting for a steadily-increasing share of new infections, taxing hospitals around the nation, public health experts have been urging the unvaccinated to get one of the three approved shots.

Some Maryland legislators believe the state should require students and teachers to get vaccinated, rather than leaving it up to local school boards and superintendents.

On Thursday, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) signed an executive order requiring hospital and nursing home employees to get vaccinated by Sept. 1. Those who decline will have to show regular proof of a negative COVID test.

Schrader said the FDA’s decision to give full approval to the Pfizer shot may help persuade people who have been hesitant to protect themselves.

“Our surveys have been telling us [that] people that have not been vaccinated, that one of the things they’re waiting for is FDA approval,” he said. “So this we think is going to be helpful.”

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