The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine could receive full approval from the Food and Drug Administration as early as Monday, according to The New York Times and other media outlets.

That will likely open the door for more employers to require the shots. Although companies like Google, Facebook, Tyson Foods and Netflix have announced that employees at their work sites will need to be vaccinated, many others have been waiting for official word from the FDA, likely to fend off lawsuits.

Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said the approval could serve two major purposes: convince employers to make vaccination a requirement for their workers – and in some cases their customers – and prompt Americans on the fence to get the shots.

“For businesses and universities that have been thinking about putting vaccine requirements in place in order to create safer spaces for people to work and learn, I think that this move from the FDA … will actually help them to move forward with those kinds of plans,’’ Murthy told CNN on Sunday.

Murthy said he didn’t want to get ahead of the FDA’s announcement, but he didn’t disagree that it could happen this week. He cited a wealth of data showing Pfizer’s two-dose regimen is safe and effective.

The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are available in the U.S. under emergency use authorization granted by the FDA. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson filed their requests for full approval after Pfizer.

Some vaccine-hesitant Americans have questioned the safety of the jabs, citing the lack of full FDA approval. Though the emergency use authorization came after large safety studies, full FDA clearance entails an exhaustive review of the vaccine’s safety record.

Given the high transmissibility of the virus’ delta variant, which has fueled a spike in infections nationwide, Murthy hopes FDA approval will persuade more people to get inoculated.

About 29% of eligible Americans have not received any vaccine shots.

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Also in the news:

►The U.S. is again averaging more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths every day for the first time in five months. At the pace of the week ending Sunday, the country reported about 42 deaths every hour, meaning an American dies of coronavirus every 85 seconds.

►President Joe Biden’s approval rating has fallen to the lowest point in his young presidency, sliding below 50% for the first time a new NBC poll found, as COVID-19 cases rise and he battles fallout from a chaotic military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

►Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel said Sunday he has tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated. He is quarantining.

►Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tested negative for COVID-19 four days after he announced he was positive with a breakthrough case. “I am told that my infection was brief and mild because of the vaccination I received,” he said.

►Outspoken vaccine skeptic Phil Valentine has died a month after his COVID-19 diagnosis captured national attention and led to his public change of heart on vaccines. Valentine, 61, announced on Facebook on July 11 he had COVID-19 and predicted he would survive. Days later, Valentine’s relatives said he was very sick, and he wanted listeners to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded over 37.7 million cases and 628,000 deaths from COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, over 211.9 million cases and 4.4 million deaths. More than 170.8 million Americans – 51.5% of the population – have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: Faith leaders are encouraging vaccinations, framing the decision as a religious obligation: It’s working. Read more here.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Trump booed at Alabama rally after telling supporters to get COVID-19 vaccine

Former President Donald Trump was briefly booed at a rally on Saturday in Alabama after telling his supporters they should get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The rally was held in Cullman, Alabama, about 50 miles north of Birmingham. Trump said the three vaccines — Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — were developed in under nine months during his presidency. He then suggested that they get the vaccine.

“You know what? I believe totally in your freedoms. You got to do what you have to do, but I recommend: take the vaccines. I did it, it’s good,” he said.

Shortly afterward, some boos could be heard in the crowd, which was mostly maskless. Trump acknowledged the crowd’s reaction and said it was OK.

Alabama has the lowest percentage of people in the nation that are fully vaccinated at 36%, according to a USA TODAY analysis. On Saturday, Alabama reported no new COVID-19 cases, two days after 3,890 new cases were reported, according to the CDC.

— Jordan Mendoza

Another Florida school district defies governor’s ban on mask mandates

The school superintendent in Tallahassee, Florida, announced Sunday that masks will be required for students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, making Leon County the seventh district in the state to defy Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on such COVID-19 mandates.

Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna said the district has seen positive tests for the coronavirus skyrocket since school opened Aug. 11 in Tallahassee and neighboring areas. He said parents who don’t want their elementary or middle school students to wear a mask will need to get a signed note from their child’s physician or psychologist by Friday.

DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran have threatened to cut funding from districts that don’t allow parents to opt out of mask requirements. Hanna said he believes in individuals’ freedom to exercise their rights but not when they endanger others.

“I don’t believe that masks are necessarily the end-all, be-all, but we know they make a difference. The vast majority of health care experts tell us they make a difference,” Hanna said in a statement broadcast on Facebook.

Jesse Jackson and his wife responding well to COVID-19 treatments, son says

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, 79, and his wife, Jacqueline, 77, were “responding positively to treatments” while hospitalized for COVID-19, their son told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Jesse Jackson, a famed civil rights leader and two-time presidential candidate, was vaccinated against the virus in January during a publicized event. He and his wife are being treated at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

“Doctors are currently monitoring the condition of both,” said a statement from Jesse Jackson’s nonprofit, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

A protégé of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jackson was key in guiding the modern civil rights movement. Despite having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Jackson has remained active, and has advocated for COVID-19 vaccines for Black people, who lag behind white people in the United States’ vaccination drive.

Rev. Jesse Jackson receives the Pfizer’s BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, from Dr. Kiran Chekka, Covid Administration Physician at the Roseland Community Hospital in Chicago.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Pfizer vaccine FDA approval may come Monday: COVID updates



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