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Pfizer Vaccine Approved by FAA

December 15, 2020 – The FAA has granted approval for medical certificate holders to receive Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, with a 48-hour grounding period after each of its two doses. The approval came less than a day after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the vaccine emergency authorization.

While the step of clearing the vaccine for airmen was routine, the FAA does evaluate every new drug for aeromedically significant side effects. Given the urgency of this particular vaccine as part of an effort to mitigate the current pandemic, the FAA began carefully evaluating the drug prior to its formal FDA approval so that it could clear pilots and controllers to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

The mandatory 48-hour wait is due to potential short-term side effects. The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses several weeks apart, and the wait applies to both. The FAA requires waiting periods after receiving other vaccines, such as those for tuberculosis and typhoid. The agency will closely monitor the vaccine rollout and make further recommendations if necessary.

Note that this approval only applies to the Pfizer vaccine, which is currently the only COVID-19 vaccine with FDA approval in the United States. As more candidate vaccines are cleared for public use, the FAA will apply a similar evaluation process.

"All available information suggests that these new vaccines are very safe and remarkably effective," said Dr. Stephen Leonard, Chairman of EAA's Aeromedical Advisory Council. "The only side effects have been the usual 'flu shot' side effects of temporary soreness at the injection site and perhaps a day or two of mild, generalized aches and fatigue. Given the potential severity of COVID-19 infection, and the terrible toll it has taken on our lives and our economy, I strongly recommend that everyone take this vaccine, to protect themselves and to end this pandemic. I certainly will, as soon as it is available to me."

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