On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on face coverings, saying even those vaccinated should wear a mask in areas of substantial and high transmission of COVID-19.
Dr. John Bonamo, the chief medical and quality officer at RWJBarnabas Health, said the CDC could have a greater impact in the fight against the pandemic if took a different step: Removing the Emergency Use Authorization it gave the vaccine — and affirming that it is now considered a safe and effective product.
On Monday, RWJBH mandated that all of its employees must be vaccinated. Bonamo said if the CDC gave the vaccine its BLA — or biologics licensing agreement — it would give other companies cover for issuing the same mandate.
“There’s no question that we’re going to get that, it’s just a question of timing,” he told ROI-NJ. “The sooner that comes out, the sooner companies will have the backup that they feel they need in order to mandate vaccinations.”
Bonamo said the value — and safety — of the COVID-19 vaccines is beyond debate.
“There’s a lot of things we do in health care and other aspects of our lives where there are different schools of thought, but if you go to the science and the people who understand this disease and the vaccine, there’s incontrovertible evidence that it’s safe and effective,” he said.
Approximately two-thirds of the state’s residents have had at least one vaccine shot — nearly 60% are fully vaccinated.
And, while those percentages make New Jersey one of the leading states for vaccination, Bonamo said they need to be higher to win the fight.
“That’s the only way we’re going to get there,” he said. “I believe that we would get a big boost from the CDC if they would just remove the EUA and go on to the BLA, which sanctions the vaccine. It’s the imprimatur that you have to get in order to be sold and used on the market.
“It means it’s an approved drug or an approved vaccine.”
One that everyone needs to get, Bonamo said.
The move toward mandating the vaccine appears to be picking up momentum.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is not ready to take that step — only saying Tuesday that all options are “on the table.” But New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday that all city employees, including teachers, need to be vaccinated or tested weekly.
“It’s quite clear the delta variant has changed the game,” he said. “Now, it’s time to focus on one thing and one thing only — vaccination. No more excuses, no more delays.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsome made similar statements Monday when he said all state employees need to be vaccinated.
“Individual choice not to get vaccinated is now impacting the rest of us in a profound, devastating and deadly way,” he said.
Bonamo agrees. He said getting vaccinated is a matter of public safety, not personal freedom.
“I get that we are a country built on freedom,” he said. “But, when your freedom can kill me, that’s no longer your right as far as I’m concerned. When your decision can adversely affect other people, we get into a greater good conversation. And we’ve got to do what’s good for everyone.”
Having the CDC remove the EUA from the vaccine will be a big step in that aim, he said.