FDA approves Pfizer vaccine as cases increase

by Kate Dolan
Posted 8/24/21

On Monday, August 23, the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for use on anyone as young as 16.

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FDA approves Pfizer vaccine as cases increase

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On Monday, August 23, the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for use on anyone as young as 16. Chestnut Hill Hospital’s parent group, Tower Health, announced it will require COVID-19 vaccination for all Tower Health employees with FDA-approved vaccines.

Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in Philadelphia continued to increase through mid-August, leading to citywide mask and vaccine mandates in an effort to limit the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

“The news overall is still not great,” said Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole at the August 18 Covid-19 press briefing, reporting that case numbers of the virus have doubled several times since July.

As of Thursday, August 19, the city is averaging 268 new cases per day over the last two weeks. On July 15, the average was 35 a day. On Friday, August 20, 363 cases were reported.

Seven percent of Covid-19 tests are positive, a rate that has also increased steadily over the month. At the beginning of August, the positivity rate was 4 percent.

In Philadelphia’s hospitals, 163 patients are being treated for Covid-19 as of Thursday, August 19. On July 19, less than 50 patients were reported in the city’s hospitals being treated for the virus.

At Chestnut Hill Hospital, as of Monday, August 23, there were 7 inpatients, with one death reported.

Last week, the City of Philadelphia mandated that healthcare workers in the City be vaccinated by October 15. Tower Health, Chestnut Hill Hospital’s parent group, announced August 23 that it will require COVID-19 vaccination for all Tower Health employees.

“We will take this step because it is the right thing to do, it is consistent with our mission to provide high-quality care, and it is vital to our obligation to keep our patients and colleagues safe,” said Sue Perrotty, Tower Health President and CEO, in a memo to staff announcing the policy.

Requiring vaccination of healthcare workers is endorsed by the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Hospital Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology, and many other groups representing caregivers across the United States.

Tower Health will spend the next weeks determining details and developing policies around the vaccine requirement. Tower Health must also plan to comply with the City of Philadelphia’s vaccine mandate that will impact employees at Chestnut Hill Hospital and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.

Vaccine mandates were also put in place for city workers. As of September 1, all city employees will be required to be vaccinated or will have to double mask when indoors.

“We know we need to take some stronger steps to protect our residents,” said Mayor Jim Kenney at the August 11 press briefing on the city’s response to the pandemic.

“I think it goes without saying that none of us want to be here discussing restrictions and policies needed to stem the spread of Covid-19,” said Kenney, noticeably frustrated at the briefing before urging residents to get vaccinated, saying it’s “the best and safest way we can get through this deadly and unpredictable pandemic.”

“We flattened the curve before and we must do everything in our power to do it again,” he said.

Businesses and indoor dining have also taken renewed precautions. On August 11, the city announced that masks must be worn indoors at all Philadelphia businesses and institutions that do not require vaccination for employees and patrons. 

If a business requires proof of vaccination to be shown, and requires all employees to be vaccinated, masks are not required indoors. People are still required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation.

Masks are required at all unseated outdoor gatherings of more than 1,000 people, which includes concerts like early September’s Made in America music festival on the Ben Franklin Parkway where everyone will need to wear a mask. Fans at a Phillies game, seated and outdoors, will not have to wear a mask. Shortly after the city released its mask mandate, the Philadelphia Eagles announced that all visitors and staff at the stadium will have to mask up while indoors, but not while outdoors.

As of Friday, August 20, the total number of fully vaccinated Philadelphia residents is at least 799,649 and the number of Philadelphians who are partially vaccinated is at least 977,658. That is 64.4 percent of Philadelphia adults who are fully vaccinated and 78.7 percent of Philadelphia adults who have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine.

In Chestnut Hill (zip code 19118), as of August 9 the percentage of people with at least one vaccine dose was about 49%. In Mt. Airy, 55%, and in Germantown 44%.

While breakthrough cases are happening among vaccinated individuals, last week at the August 18 press briefing, Dr. Bettigole said they account for 1.3 percent of the city’s cases and predominantly, hospitalizations and people getting sick are unvaccinated people. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 151,663 Philadelphians have been diagnosed with Covid-19, and there have been 3,796 deaths from the virus.

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