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Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. announced perhaps the most encouraging news since the coronavirus pandemic started: a potential vaccine trial has been 90% effective in preventing COVID-19.
"Today is a great day for science and humanity," said Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer chair and CEO, in a statement. "We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most."
There are 90 trials being conducted nationally, including one at Austin Regional Clinic, according to the Statesman, which reports that 200 adults are taking part in the study.
According to Pfizer, the latest phase of trials started in late July and included a diverse mix of participants. Monday's news should help advance ARC's trial to reportedly include teenagers in ongoing tests.
Should the Pfizer vaccine trials continue to deliver successful results, the company projects it can produce up to 50 million doses globally by the end of the year and 1.3 billion vaccine doses in 2021. Pfizer would offer the vaccine for free "to all American citizens," once available Bourla told Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent. The stock market has already reacted overwhelmingly positive to the announcement.
Local health officials said Monday that they are working with state officials and a local coalition to plan for widespread distribution of a vaccine, once one is available.
Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden said the coalition is working to identify priority populations locally, which would receive earliest access to any vaccine.
But other challenges remain, including the need for ultra-cold storage and a second dose, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said, as well as the peer review process, which is standard in drug development.
"There are still a lot of unknowns as far as logistically how things will come," APH Chief Epidemiologist Janet Pichette said.
President-elect Joe Biden issued a statement congratulating Pfizer for the potential breakthrough but set realistic expectations that "the end of the battle against COVID-19 is still months away" even if a vaccine is approved later this month.
Statement by President-elect Biden on Pfizer's vaccine progress: https://t.co/eOiLZnqO8N— Biden-Harris Presidential Transition (@Biden-Harris Presidential Transition)1604934322.0
Anyone interested in volunteering can request to participate in the trial on ARC's website.
Emma Freer contributed to this story.
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Matthew McConaughey is reportedly weighing a run for Texas governor in 2022.
The Austin resident and Oscar winner has been "quietly making calls to influential people in Texas political circles, including a deep-pocketed moderate Republican and energy CEO" as he decides whether to run, according to Politico.
McConaughey said a gubernatorial run is "a true consideration" while on a March episode of Houston's "The Balanced Voice" podcast.
Although most political strategists doubt McConaughey's commitment and viability as a candidate, some are still intrigued by the possibility.
"I find it improbable, but it's not out of the question," Karl Rove, a top Republican strategist with a long history in Austin, told the political news site. He added that the big question is whether McConaughey would run as a Republican, a Democrat or an independent.
Brendan Steinhauser, an Austin-based GOP strategist, told Politico he's surprised McConaughey isn't being taken more seriously. "Celebrity in this country counts for a lot," he said. "It's not like some C-list actor no one likes. He has an appeal."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott plans to run for a third term and remains popular among Republican voters, 77% of whom approve of his performance as of April, according to the Texas Politics Project.
Some strategists believe an independent McConaughey run would benefit Abbott. But a recent poll from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler found that McConaughey would beat Abbott, 45% to 33%, with 22% opting for someone else.
Mimi Swartz, an executive editor at Texas Monthly, mulled a McConaughey run in a recent opinion essay from the New York Times. "Texas may not be ready for a philosopher king as a candidate, much less governor," she wrote. "May the best man win, man."
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Some JuiceLand production facility workers and storefront employees are organizing to demand wage increases, better working conditions (including air conditioning in the warehouse) and pay transparency, among other asks. They are also calling on staff to strike and customers to boycott the Austin-based company until their demands are met.
JuiceLand responded on Saturday. "We are listening," the company wrote on their Instagram story. "JuiceLand crew now makes guaranteed $15 an hour or more companywide."
JuiceLand, which was founded in 2001 by Matt Shook and now has 35 locations in Austin, Houston and Dallas, acknowledged the rising cost of living across Texas and the added stress of the pandemic in an email to employees on Saturday, part of which @juicelandworkersrights shared on social media. "There's no denying that times are tough and financial security means more now than ever," the company wrote.
Organized JuiceLand workers rejected this proposal, according to a recent post on the @juicelandworkersrights Instagram account, and reiterated their demands.
"Cost of living in Austin is rising exponentially and will only continue to get worse with the tech boom," the post read. "$15 is barely a sustainable living."