Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted full approval of the first COVID-19 vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA), including for individuals 12 through 15 years of age, and for the administration of a third dose to certain immunocompromised individuals.
“The health and safety of North Dakota citizens remains our top priority, and safe, effective vaccines are our best tool to preserve hospital capacity and protect against COVID-19, including the highly contagious Delta variant spreading rapidly across our state,” North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said. “Today’s announcement that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine meets the FDA’s high standards for full approval instills further confidence that the vaccine is safe and effective and helps address vaccine hesitancy related to the emergency use authorization. Individuals who still have questions or concerns about the vaccines are encouraged to visit with their doctor or medical provider.”
More than 50% of North Dakotans have already taken the important step of choosing to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. Vaccination continues to be the strongest defense against serious illness. Those who have been waiting for FDA approval are encouraged to make an appointment to be vaccinated to protect themselves and those they care about.
“COVID-19, including the Delta variant, is present and spreading in North Dakota communities. Preventative measures such as testing, isolating, masking and social distancing have worked to slow the spread of the virus. Individuals should continue to practice these measures. While these practices continue to be important, vaccines are the best defense against COVID-19,” said State Health Officer Dr. Nizar Wehbi. “By getting vaccinated, individuals are protecting not only themselves but their communities. They are also playing a critical role in stopping COVID-19 from mutating to other stronger, more dangerous variants.”
The North Dakota Department of Health hosted a press briefing today to discuss the FDA approval and provide updates regarding COVID-19 in North Dakota. NDDoH Immunization Program Director, Molly Howell, NDDoH Disease Control & Forensic Pathology Section Chief, Kirby Kruger, and NDDoH Heath Resources & Response Section Chief, Tim Wiedrich were present to provide data, resources, and information and to answer questions from local media.
Nationwide the current case, hospitalization, and death rates suggest that the United States is in the midst of a fourth wave of the COVID-19 outbreak. The impact of this wave has been blunted by the large numbers of Americans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. However, there remain millions of children under the age of 12 who are not eligible for vaccination, Americans who are reluctant to get vaccinated, and individuals with medical conditions that limit the effectiveness of the vaccine. Together, these groups represent a substantial group of Americans who remain vulnerable to severe outcomes from COVID-19.
In North Dakota, the Delta variant has emerged as the predominant variant. COVID-19, particularly the Delta variant, with its increased infectiousness coupled with a large percentage of people not vaccinated, may lead to more cases of COVID-19, increased hospitalizations and potentially more deaths.
There has also been an increase in the number of positive cases. Since Aug. 1, 2021,
- the number of active cases has increased from 448 to 1,508, or 237%.
- the 14-day rolling average of test positivity increased from 3.1% to 5.7%, up 84%.
- the number of individuals hospitalized has increased from 25 to 66, or 164%.
Children remain a vulnerable population. In North Dakota, only 29% of adolescents ages 12-17 have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Children younger than 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination. With no opportunity for vaccination in younger children and low rates in older children, there is potential for high infection rates this fall. Many children may be hospitalized at the same time, potentially in addition to those with RSV and influenza.
“I hope North Dakotans who are not yet vaccinated will take this FDA approval into consideration and feel confident in the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccine and choose to get vaccinated,” said Howell.
Those who have questions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine should ask a trusted health care provider. Information on COVID-19 vaccine providers and clinics near you can be found on the NDDoH COVID Vaccine Locator page. Individuals can also contact the NDDoH public health hotline at 1-866-207-2880 for questions related to COVID-19 and for assistance in scheduling a vaccine appointment.