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State health officials encourage vaccination as FDA approves Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

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As the Delta variant begins taking hold, North Dakota Department of Health officials say vaccination is the best defense.

The Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, has granted Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine full approval for all Americans aged 16 and older.

It is still available under emergency use authorization for adolescents aged 12 to 15. A third dose has also been approved for immunocompromised individuals.

While state health department officials are encouraged that FDA approval may make some North Dakota residents more willing to get vaccinated against COVID-19, cases are on an upward trend in the state.

Kirby Kruger is Disease Control and Forensic Pathology Section Chief with the state health department.

"Since August 1st, the number of active cases has increased from 448 to 1,508 - a 237 percent increase. The 14 day rolling average of test positivity has increased from 3.1 percent on August 1st, to 5.7 percent today, up 84 percent. And hospitalizations have increased from 25 to 66 in this time period, a 164 percent increase."

The Delta variant has also become the most predominant strain in North Dakota. Kruger says with influenza and RSV circulating; this fall could disproportionately impact young children.

Molly Howell is Immunization Program Director. She says so far, roughly 29 percent of adolescents aged 12 and above have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. She says with school starting this week, the low vaccination rate is concerning.

"Vaccination continues to be safer than risking severe outcomes from COVID-19 illness. Now is the time to get vaccinated before Delta is here; we have the benefit from learning from our friends down south. Now is the opportunity to get vaccinated."

The state health department will soon begin sharing re-infection and vaccine breakthrough infections on their COVID-19 dashboard. Kruger says as of now, these numbers are very low.

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