The One Thing the FDA Could Do to Boost Vaccination, Survey Says

The vaccination process in the U.S. has had its fair share of bumps along the road, but now there's not much standing in the way of people across the country getting the COVID shot. Not only is vaccination free and appointments readily available, but there are three vaccines authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson&Johnson. More than 50 percent of people in the U.S. have already received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but the vaccination rate in the country is now slowing amid lack of demand, which has experts worried about the other half of the population. According to a new survey, the FDA could boost vaccination by granting full approval to a COVID vaccine—not just emergency-use authorization.

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A survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that nearly half of unvaccinated people in the U.S. are more likely to get vaccinated once the FDA approves a COVID vaccine. According to the survey published May 28, 44 percent of those who say they'll "wait and see" about getting a COVID vaccine would be more likely to actually get the shot if one of the vaccines currently authorized for emergency use received full approval.

"Among various incentives tested in this month's Monitor, the one that appears to have the most resonance, particularly for those in the 'wait and see' group, is full FDA approval of one or more of the COVID-19 vaccines," the Kaiser Family Foundation explained in an article accompanying the survey.

Pfizer and Moderna are the only two manufacturers that have submitted a Biologics License Application (BLA) to the FDA—which asks the FDA to review at least six months worth of safety and efficacy data to approve a vaccine. Pfizer announced its application for full approval for individuals 16 years and older on May 7, while Moderna just announced its application for those 18 and older on June 1. However, The New York Times says the process to approve these applications could take months.

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Health officials say waiting that long to get vaccinated could hurt the country's chances of containing COVID. "The more people that are unvaccinated, the more opportunities the COVID virus has to mutate to different hosts," Cat Long, a spokesperson for the Richmond-Henrico Health District, told CBS affiliate WTVR. Long said it's also unlikely that anything will change in terms of the vaccine's efficacy or side effects in the next six months, so waiting doesn't make much sense.

"Usually serious side effects happen within two months. So we are well past the window both in the trials and in the real-life scenarios of when people would most likely have a reaction," she explained.

William Moss, MD, the executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said the same thing to ABC News, explaining that "there's nothing about that review process that's going to reveal anything we don't know."

"Yes, it's kind of a formal stamp of approval, but I don't think it really provides much more than what we already know," he said. "We have more data on vaccine safety than with any other vaccine, even before the review of the full approval."

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