President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the full FDA approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Monday, Aug. 23, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the full FDA approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Monday, Aug. 23, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Pfizer’s COVID vaccine gets full FDA approval

The Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Monday for people 16 and older, according to a press release from the agency.

The Pfizer shot, now marketed as Comirnaty, was the first to be available under emergency use authorization on Dec. 11, 2020. There have already been over 200 million doses administered nationwide, according to the Associated Press. It is the first full FDA-approved vaccine for COVID-19 in the country.

The emergency use authorization is different from the full approval classification, according to the FDA.

“In determining whether to issue an EUA for a product, the FDA evaluates the available evidence and assesses any known or potential risks and any known or potential benefits, and if the benefit-risk assessment is favorable, the product is made available during the emergency,” the FDA website states.

Now that the Pfizer shot has received full FDA approval, it is no longer considered available for only emergency use in those 16 and older. The Pfizer vaccine is still available for emergency use in those 12 to 15.

“While millions of people have already safely received COVID-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock in the release. “Today’s milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S.”

President Joe Biden, in an address about the pandemic response, encouraged more people to get the Pfizer shot after the FDA’s announcement Monday.

“So let me say this loudly and clearly, if you are one of millions of Americans who have said that they will not get the shot until it has (the) full and final approval of the FDA, it has now happened,” he said. “The moment you’ve been waiting for is here. It’s time for you to go get your vaccination.”

The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccines are still available for those 18 and older for emergency use. They have not yet been granted full FDA approval.

Getting a COVID vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money.

Vaccines are available through the Kenai Fire Department by calling 907-283-8270, by walk-in at the Soldotna Wednesday Market, and for both residents and visitors at airports in Anchorage, Juneau and Fairbanks.

Many different businesses on the central peninsula, including pharmacies in Walmart and Walgreens, offer vaccines.

Additionally, Soldotna Professional Pharmacy hosts a walk-in clinic in its strip mall storefront at the “Y” intersection of the Sterling and Kenai Spur highways Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Vaccination appointments can also be scheduled through the online portal PrepMod, which can be accessed at myhealth.alaska.gov.

A map of vaccine providers can be found on DHSS’ COVID-19 vaccine website at covidvax.alaska.gov.

People who would like assistance with scheduling a vaccination appointment can call the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management call center. The center operates Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon. The central peninsula call center can be reached at 907-262-4636. The Homer call center can be reached at 907-235-4636. The Seward call center can be reached at 907-224-4636.

Testing locations

Officials encourage anyone with symptoms to test for COVID-19, despite vaccination status.

In Kenai, testing is available at the Chignik Lagoon Clinic, Odyssey Family Practice, Kenai Public Health Center, Capstone Clinic and Central Peninsula Urgent Care.

In Soldotna, testing is available at the Central Peninsula Hospital, Peninsula Community Health Center, Urgent Care of Soldotna, Walgreens and Soldotna Professional Pharmacy.

In Seward, testing is available at Providence Medical Center, Chugachmiut-North Star Health Clinic, Glacier Family Medicine, Seward Community Health Center and the Safeway pharmacy. Starting Aug. 17, the Seward Community Health Center is offering drive-thru testing Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

In Homer, testing is available at South Peninsula Hospital, or through other area health care providers at Seldovia Village Tribe Health and Wellness, Kachemak Medical Group and Homer Medical Center.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

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