The Pfizer vaccine gets full FDA approval, eliminating a primary argument for not getting it

The FDA has given full approval for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, marking a major milestone in the fight against the global coronavirus pandemic.

Since FDA Emergency Use Authorization was issued for the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines earlier this year, some hesitant people have refused to get the vaccine, citing the fact that it wasn't fully approved by the FDA. Now that full FDA approval has been granted for the Pfizer vaccine (which is actually officially named Comirnaty—who knew?), that argument is moot. And with Moderna's approval submission clocking about a month after Pfizer, it's entirely likely we'll have two fully approved vaccines for COVID-19 in the coming weeks.

The big question now is—will it actually make that much difference?

On the hopeful side, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 31% of unvaccinated Americans they surveyed last month indicated that they would be more likely to get vaccinated if the vaccine received full FDA approval. If all of those people changed their minds due to this approval, we'd have millions more Americans receiving the vaccine. With hospitals filling up with unvaccinated people across the country, putting a heavy strain on already burnt-out healthcare workers, getting more people vaccinated is imperative.

But even full approval doesn't seem to be budging the die-hard never-vaxxers.


A small-but-loud minority of Americans simply have a blanket distrust of the FDA (or any government regulatory agency), and this full approval is just seen as another untrustworthy move by an untrusted source. Social media today is filled with people asking how much the FDA was paid to give this full approval. Figuring out how to reach these people is an ongoing mystery.

Another minority of Americans are immersed in media that pushes misinformation about the vaccines and the pandemic in general, leading people to the erroneous belief that they're better off risking a COVID infection than getting the vaccine. Though COVID misinformation can be outright lies, more often it's studies or statistics or stories that are cherry-picked and used in misleading ways. (Watch the comments on this article if you read it on Facebook. There will be no shortage of such misinformation being shared. Happens every time.)

One example of such misleading information is reports of the number of vaccine reactions in VAERS, the U.S. government's Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System. If a person were to just look at the numbers in that database (which is available for anyone to see) without proper analysis, they could easily believe that the vaccines were dangerous, leading to thousands of people's deaths and sickening thousands more.

However VAERS numbers have to be taken for what they are—self-reported, unverified reactions that 1) may not be real or accurate since anyone can submit to it, and 2) have not been demonstrated to actually be caused by the vaccine.

Here's one example of why raw VAERS numbers are essentially meaningless: When we're vaccinating more than 100 million people in a handful of months, basic statistics would tell us that a certain number of those people will die of out-of-the-blue heart attacks, strokes, aneurysms, or other sudden death events within a close window of receiving the vaccine, even though such events actually have nothing to do with the vaccine.

Here's how that math works: According to the American Public Health Association, around 2,200 Americans die each day of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases every day. That's about one person every 40 seconds, and that's in years when there's not a mass vaccination effort happening. At the peak of vaccinations in April, the U.S. was administering over 1,300 vaccine doses every 40 seconds. Statistically, it's completely expected that some sudden deaths would coincide closely with a vaccine dose—but that doesn't mean that the vaccine caused them. Doctors investigate all reported deaths following vaccines, and there is simply no indication that vaccines are causing people to die or be severely impacted in any statistically significant way.

One might assume that the FDA's pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for safety review when a correlation between the vaccine and a higher than normal incidence of rare, severe (but treatable) blood clots was discovered would have given people some faith that the safety monitoring systems work as they should. But memories are short and paranoia is high. Add in the fact that we're watching science happen in real-time, and that accurate information and guidance have changed many times as we've learned more, and it's not surprising that a lot of people simply don't know what to think anymore.

While this full FDA approval won't convince everyone who is hesitant to get the vaccine, hopefully it will convince some. (For those still on the fence, you can read the FDA insert that will now accompany the Pfizer vaccine here and an FAQ about the vaccine and the approval of it here.)

As always, look to the majority of experts in the epidemiology/virology/immunology fields for accurate information and ignore the handful of skeptics-with-credentials who thrive on social media attention and feed on people's distrust of institutions and authority. And for the love, run from anyone who says, "Do your own research," unless you actually have the expertise and ability to conduct clinical research. (For real, watching YouTube videos and searching hashtags on Twitter does not count.)

Let's celebrate the incredible medical feat of the world's top medical scientists during the pandemic, do our part to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and get the free, widely available, and now fully FDA-approved vaccine as soon as possible.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Freya from Maya Higa's YouTube video.

Ever wonder what an ideal date for a lemur would be? Or a lizard’s favorite Disney princess?

Thanks to one YouTube poster with a passion for animals and an endearing sense of humor, all questions shall be answered. Well, maybe not all questions. But at the very least, you’ll have eight minutes of insanely cute footage.

In a series titled “Tiny Mic Interviews,” Maya Higa approaches little beasties with a microphone so small she has to hold it with just her thumb and forefinger. And yes, 99% of the animals try to eat it.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

This article originally appeared on August 14, 2016


Time travel back to 1905.

Back in 1905, a book called "The Apples of New York" was published by the New York State Department of Agriculture. It featured hundreds of apple varieties of all shapes, colors, and sizes, including Thomas Jefferson's personal favorite, the Esopus Spitzenburg.






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This article originally appeared on November 6, 2015

Every single day, babies across the world are born prematurely, which means that they're born before 37 weeks of gestation.

In Canada, about 29,000 infants are born prematurely each year, roughly 1 in every 13. But in the United States, around 400,000 to 500,000 are born early. That's about 1 in every 8 to 10 babies born in the U.S.!

Red Méthot, a Canadian photographer and student, decided to capture the resilience of many of these kids for a school photography project.

He's the father of two prematurely born kids himself, so the topic is important to him.

"My son was born at 29 weeks and my daughter at 33 weeks," he told me in a phone interview. "These are the kind of pictures I would like to have seen when my first child was born — they've been through that, and they are great now."

Méthot said he knows not all preemie stories have a happy ending — one of his photos features a child whose twin passed away after they were born prematurely — but for so many kids who come early, they go on to experience a great life.

Meet several of the beautiful kids he photographed!

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