'Promising' Pfizer trial results could lead to children in Austin area getting vaccines as early as this summer

Residents wait after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine March 13 at the Delco Activity Center in Northeast Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Residents wait after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine March 13 at the Delco Activity Center in Northeast Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Residents wait after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine March 13 at the Delco Activity Center in Northeast Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

More than 32% of Travis County residents over the age of 16 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, officials have said the area will not be able to reach herd immunity, or the threshold at which it becomes hard for the virus to spread, until children are also able to be vaccinated.

So far, the vaccines being distributed in Texas have only been approved for emergency use in adults—those age 16 and older for the Pfizer vaccine and age 18 and up for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. That could be changing soon.

On March 31, Pfizer announced the results of a trial that showed its vaccine had 100% efficacy in participants ages 12-15. Albert Bourla, the chair and CEO of the drug company, said in a release Pfizer plans to submit the data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a proposed amendment to its emergency use authorization that could pave the way to expand distribution to younger recipients.

Dr. Mark Escott, the Austin-Travis County interim health authority, said March 31 in a media conference the results could lead to children in the area getting vaccinated over the summer before school resumes in the fall.

"There's more work to be done, but these are promising results, particularly for middle school and high school students," Escott said. "It gives us enough time to ramp up vaccination to reach those groups to make it much safer in the fall for the return to more regulated in-person education."


Austin ISD has announced it will return to traditional, face-to-face instruction this fall while retaining a virtual option for families.

The exact target for herd immunity varies based on how quickly the virus is spreading locally and other factors, but federal health officials have said it will lie somewhere between 70%-90% of the overall population being vaccinated.

In addition to vaccinating children, Escott said the challenge to reach that threshold will be making the vaccine more available in places people already go as part of their daily routines such as grocery stores, doctor's offices and pharmacies, rather than making individuals sign up at a mass vaccination site through Austin Public Health or another local public health provider. As supply continues to increase, Escott said he expects to see the Texas Department of State Health Services increase its allocations to private providers such as H-E-B and CVS to reach people more easily.

"I think generally speaking we’re on a good timeline [U.S. President Joe Biden] set to have vaccine available to everybody who wants it by the end of May. Children will be another benchmark. It will probably be sometime over the summer for them," Escott said.

While everyone over the age of 16 is eligible to receive a vaccine in Texas as of March 29, APH has not yet opened availability beyond the initial groups who qualified: health care workers, teachers and school staff, residents over age 50 and those with underlying conditions. That is because officials said there are still too many people eligible in APH's system waiting to get a vaccine.

The system will open up to all adults when the waiting list thins out, officials said, and until then residents should seek the vaccine from other providers in the county or the surrounding area. Any Texas resident can sign up for a vaccine through any provider in the state; appointments are not limited by county of residence.
By Jack Flagler
Jack is the editor of Community Impact Newspaper's Central Austin and Southwest Austin editions. He began his career as a sports reporter in Massachusetts and North Carolina before moving to Austin in 2018. He grew up in Maine and graduated from Boston University, but prefers tacos al pastor to lobster rolls. You can get in touch at [email protected]


MOST RECENT

The regional blood bank appealed for further donations in the wake of the June 12 shooting in downtown Austin. (Courtesy We Are Blood)
We Are Blood appeals for blood donations following weekend shooting in downtown Austin

The Central Texas nonprofit also said its blood supply remains depleted due to decreased donations through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo of a man holding robotic equipment
Tesla teams up with Austin Community College for manufacturing training and hiring program

The Tesla START program will hire and train ACC students to work with robotics and other advanced manufacturing equipment.

Austin City Council's Housing and Planning Committee met virtually June 15. (Screenshot via City of Austin)
Austin City Council members, city Realtors talk housing market increases and affordability

The median sale price of Austin homes surged past $500,000 through the first five months of 2021.

Izzy is one of the 20 dogs in need of an emergency foster home. (Courtesy Austin Pets Alive)
Austin Pets Alive seeks emergency foster homes for dogs recovering from distemper

The Bastrop County Animal Shelter and Austin Pets Alive are seeking homes within the next 48 hours for 20 dogs facing euthanasia.

Community groups painted "Black Austin Matters" along three blocks of Congress Avenue in 2020. Juneteenth, an official city of Austin holiday as of 2020, commemorates the day Black residents of Texas found out they were free from slavery in 1865. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Juneteenth in Austin: Parade and fireworks information, other community events, city closures

The holiday commemorates the day Black enslaved residents of Texas were told they were free in Galveston in 1865.

The mid-June East Sixth Street shooting has prompted responses from city police, EMS and government officials. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Sixth Street fatal shooting leads to renewed discussions of public safety staffing, gun violence prevention in Austin

Increased police staffing, improved EMS availability, and state or federal action on gun violence prevention are among the proposals floated in the wake of the weekend shooting.

Plans to move forward with the design of a new Travis County women's jail have been postponed indefinitely. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Travis County pauses plans to build new women's jail

Commissioners voted unanimously to postpone any design or construction of new jail facilities for at least a year while staff re-evaluate the Travis County correctional system's needs.

Austin FC fans
Austin FC supporters groups release parade route ahead of inaugural home game

Motorists should look for pedestrians walking around near the site of Q2 Stadium ahead of Austin FC's June 19 inaugural home game.

Joseph Chacon, interim chief of the Austin Police Department, gives an update on Austin's recent move into the second phase of Proposition B camping ban enforcement June 15 alongside Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey and City Manager Spencer Cronk. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin Proposition B enforcement shifts from education to warnings

Austin officials on June 15 provided an update on enforcement and outreach work by city staff and the Austin Police Department with the second phase of Proposition B camping ban enforcement now underway.

Candlewood Suites Northwest Austin
Williamson County declines lawsuit against Austin over Candlewood Suites saga—for now

Williamson County did not hold a vote to file a lawsuit against the city of Austin over the contentious Candlewood Suites property in Northwest Austin.

Photo of Chez Nous in black and white
Chez Nous, downtown Austin's longstanding French bistro, permanently closes

The restaurant opened in 1982 after its owners moved to Texas from Paris.