For many months, vaccine skeptics and critics of vaccination mandates have pointed to the fact that the coronavirus vaccines were available only under emergency-use authorizations. So when the Food and Drug Administration this week fully authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, these folks had some accounting to do.

Increasingly, some of them have landed on a rather conspiratorial idea that seems likely to rear its head moving forward, particularly as employers push forward with mandates.

It’s a claim many of the most prominent vaccine skeptics you might have heard of are pushing with increasing gusto. It’s just not something that, according to experts, actually lines up with the FDA’s announcement.

Some of these claims are rather inscrutable. But they boil down to the idea that the FDA has engaged in a bait-and-switch. While it fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that will be marketed under the name Comirnaty, the FDA also extended the emergency-use authorization for the same vaccine under the existing name.

Some have gone so far as to ignore the former and claim this was strictly about extending the emergency-use authorization (EUA). But most of it involves suggesting the full authorization provides a pretext for mandating the emergency-use version (which some wrongly suggest is different). Others have wrongly claimed that if this was truly a real, full authorization, the EUAs would have to be voided — so the fact that they aren’t means it isn’t a full authorization.

One prominent conservative lawyer who has often aligned with conspiracy theorists asserted: “If FDA approved & licensed COVID19 vaccine, it would have to revoke the EUA vaccines & subject the vaccine maker to more liability risk. So it only approved a future vaccine that isn’t ‘available.’ ” The tweet has gone semi-viral, with more than 7,000 retweets and 14,000 likes.

Stephen K. Bannon, a former adviser to President Donald Trump, claimed that the vaccine had a “sort of sketchy, shady FDA approval,” and invited coronavirus vaccine skeptic Robert Malone to weigh in. Malone called it a “trick” and said the media had “lied” about the full authorization of the vaccine.

Others have made similar arguments suggesting this isn’t truly a full authorization. Robert F. Kennedy, a leading purveyor of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, claimed with a co-author, “The FDA appears to be purposefully tricking American citizens into giving up their right to refuse an experimental product.”

The crux of the argument focuses on a footnote in the FDA documentation about why the EUAs are continuing (key part bolded):

Although COMIRNATY (COVID-19 Vaccine, mRNA) is approved to prevent COVID-19 in individuals 16 years of age and older, there is not sufficient approved vaccine available for distribution to this population in its entirety at the time of reissuance of this EUA. Additionally, there are no products that are approved to prevent COVID-19 in individuals age 12 through 15, or that are approved to provide an additional dose to the immunocompromised population described in this EUA.”

To some, this means the fully approved vaccine isn’t or won’t be available. The language, though, strictly says that there merely isn’t a “sufficient” amount of it available to the approved groups to void the need for the EUAs.

As for the idea that they simply wouldn’t be allowed to continue the EUAs if they truly had a fully approved version? That comes out of thin air. The FDA is allowed to continue with EUAs even if a fully approved treatment is available, as long as there isn’t an “adequate” amount of the fully approved treatment available. (The above footnote is appended to the FDA using this precise language.)

What’s more, the full authorization doesn’t include some groups in the EUAs, such as those between 12 and 15 years of age — meaning those groups won’t yet have access to the fully authorized version.

“That language gives FDA a tremendous amount of flexibility to continue to issue EUAs, or to retain existing EUAs, even after one or more products are approved,” said Patricia J. Zettler, a former FDA attorney and law professor at Ohio State University. “For example, remdesivir is fully approved for the treatment of covid-19 requiring hospitalization, but there remains an EUA for the product for pediatric patients outside the scope of the approval.”

Zettler added: “There is nothing suspicious going on here; this is just regulatory language explaining why a legal standard is met.”

William Schaffner, an infectious-disease specialist at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, agreed.

“I think this interpretation that we’re seeing here is tortured and seems to go out of the way to willfully misread what is a pretty straightforward, innocent statement,” Schaffner said.

Chris Beyrer, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School Public Health, noted that the existing Pfizer vaccines that have been produced and purchased can’t legally be overlabeled with the Comirnaty branding, even as they are the same thing.

“That’s why there may be, for some time, EUA Pfizer doses in use before [fully authorized] Comirnaty becomes more widely available,” Beyrer said. “This is standard, nothing unusual, and [it] does not void an EUA.”

This is something largely relegated to the extremes of the vaccine-skeptic community. But it’s catching on. And the FDA’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine — which is actually, literally that — means we’ll start seeing more entities mandating the vaccine. And that means those who have fought those mandates will need something to explain their opposition to mandating a fully authorized vaccine in a country where that is commonplace.

This appears, as likely as anything, to be the thing many of them will latch on to. It just does not provide the firm grip they seem to want.