Full FDA approval of COVID-19 vaccines could spur more company, university mandates

File - A student receives a COVID-19 vaccine before returning to school on Aug. 19, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Stephen Zenner/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Full federal approval of Pfizer’s vaccine and other COVID-19 shots by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could spur more vaccination mandates by companies and universities, according to the U.S. surgeon general.

The agency on Monday granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s two-dose vaccine, calling it a "milestone" that may help to increase public confidence in the shots as the country faces a resurgence of virus cases and hospitalizations.

Speaking prior to the announcement, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told FOX News that he believes full FDA approval "would likely encourage" certain places to institute vaccine mandates.

"There are universities and businesses that have been considering putting in vaccine requirements in order to create a safer workplace or learning environment," Murthy said Sunday. "And I think this announcement from the FDA would likely encourage them and make them feel more comfortable."

Full FDA approval could also prompt more vaccine mandates by local governments. New York City, New Orleans and San Francisco all imposed proof-of-vaccination requirements this month at restaurants, bars and other indoor venues.

At the federal level, President Joe Biden is requiring government workers to sign forms attesting that they’ve been vaccinated or else submit to regular testing and other requirements.

Americans, anxious over a resurgence of cases fueled by the highly contagious delta variant and low vaccination rates in some parts of the country, seem to also be increasingly on board. Close to 6 in 10 favor requiring people to be fully vaccinated to travel on airplanes or attend crowded public events, according to a recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

"Mandating becomes much easier when you have full approval," Dr. Carlos del Rio of Emory University told the Associated Press. "I think a lot of businesses have been waiting for it."

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To date, 51.5% of the total U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while just under 61% has received at least one dose of a shot, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows

While vaccine administration rates stalled in July, the number has increased in recent days — with a million a day given Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Murthy called the uptick in vaccines "encouraging" but called on those who have not yet gotten their shot to do so amid the ongoing spread of the more contagious strain of the virus. 

"The vast majority of people who are ending up in the hospital and who are losing their lives to this illness are those who are unvaccinated, which means that the vaccinations are doing their job to keep people out of the hospital and to save lives," Murthy told FOX News. 

He added that vaccination is "ultimately how we are going to save lives and overcome the delta variant."

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This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.