WASHINGTON, AP – The US has given full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, potentially boosting public confidence in the shots and instantly opening the way for more universities, companies and local governments to make vaccinations mandatory.

The Pentagon on Monday promptly announced it will press ahead with plans to force members of the military to get vaccinated amid the battle against the extra-contagious delta variant.

The University of Minnesota, likewise, said it would require its students get the shot, as did Louisiana’s major public universities, including LSU, though state law there allows broad exemptions.

More than 200 million Pfizer doses have been administered in the US under emergency provisions – and hundreds of millions more worldwide – since December.

In going a step further and granting full approval, the Food and Drug Administration cited months of real-world evidence that serious side effects are extremely rare.

President Joe Biden said that for those who hesitated to get the vaccine until it received what he dubbed the “gold standard” of FDA approval, “the moment you’ve been waiting for is here”,

“Please get vaccinated today,” he said.

Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla called the FDA’s action “an important milestone that I think will unlock some of the more sceptical minds”.

Pfizer said the US was the first country to grant full approval of its vaccine, in a process that required a 360,000-page application and rigorous inspections.

The formula, jointly developed with Germany’s BioNTech, will be marketed under the brand name Comirnaty.

Moderna has also applied to the FDA for full approval of its vaccine. Johnson & Johnson, maker of the third option in the US, said it hoped to do so later this year.

Just more than half of the US population is fully vaccinated. Vaccinations bottomed out in July at an average of about 500,000 shots a day, down from a peak of 3.4 million a day in mid-April.

As the Delta variant fills hospital beds, shots are on the rise again, with a million a day given on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he would seek the president’s OK to make the vaccine mandatory by mid-September or once the FDA granted final approval, whichever comes first.

On Monday, after the FDA acted, the Pentagon said guidance on vaccinations would be worked out and a timeline provided in the coming days.