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Photo: Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for those aged 16 and older.

Why it matters: It's the first COVID-19 vaccine to receive full authorization from the federal government. Experts hope the approval will encourage more unvaccinated people in the U.S. to get the shot, especially as the country experiences a surge in COVID cases largely driven by the Delta variant.

  • The full authorization is expected to usher in a wave of new vaccine mandates by local governments and businesses, per the New York Times.
  • It also comes less than a week after the Biden administration announced that booster shots will be available to many vaccinated people beginning Sept. 20, if the plan is approved by the FDA.

What they're saying: “The FDA’s approval of this vaccine is a milestone as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic," acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement.

  • "While this and other vaccines have met the FDA’s rigorous, scientific standards for emergency use authorization, as the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product,” Woodcock added.
  • "Today’s milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S."

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla echoed Woodcock, saying the "approval for those aged 16 and over affirms the efficacy and safety profile of our vaccine at a time when it is urgently needed."

  • "I am hopeful this approval will help increase confidence in our vaccine, as vaccination remains the best tool we have to help protect lives and achieve herd immunity," he added.

By the numbers: About 62.4% of adults in the U.S. were fully vaccinated as of Sunday morning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • The U.S. has recorded more than 37.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 628,500 deaths since the pandemic began, per Johns Hopkins University data.

Go deeper:

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details.

Go deeper

Updated Dec 1, 2021 - Health

2 federal judges temporarily block Biden vaccine mandates

President Biden delivers remarks on the Omicron COVID-19 variant at the White House on Nov. 29. Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

The Biden administration was temporarily blocked from enforcing COVID-19 vaccine mandates for millions of workers by federal judges in two states on Tuesday.

The big picture: The orders, by federal judges in Kentucky and Louisiana, come one day after a federal judge in Missouri halted the mandate, which has a Jan. 4 deadline, in 10 states.

Nov 30, 2021 - World

WHO advises people 60 or older to postpone travel due to Omicron

Travelers arrive for flights at Newark Liberty International Airport on Nov. 30. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Tuesday advised those 60 or older and other vulnerable people to postpone travel plans in response to the emergence of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Driving the news: The WHO said on Monday that the Omicron variant poses a "very high" risk and may be more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.

Nov 30, 2021 - Health

Omicron variant in the Netherlands before being discovered in South Africa

Travelers from South Africa are tested for the coronavirus on arrival at Schiphol airport, on Nov. 30. Photo: Remko de Waal/ANP/AFP via Getty Images

Dutch health officials announced Tuesday that they have discovered two cases of the new Omicron variant in the country dating back to Nov. 19 and Nov. 23, days before the variant's detection was announced by South African scientists.

Why it matters: Although the Netherlands announced that it had discovered more than 10 Omicron cases last Sunday, the discovery of these new, older cases means the variant was already spreading in Western Europe before Omicron's existence was publicly known.

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