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More vaccines could be headed to Austin as FDA greenlights single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine

This story was updated Monday to include that the vaccine received official approval by the FDA this weekend.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine that is to be shipped out this month, increasing the number of vaccines available.

In a virtual meeting on Friday, the FDA Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee unanimously approved of the U.S.'s third available COVID-19 vaccine, which was officially approved on Saturday. Federal officials say 4 million doses will go out nationally this week, with an expected 20 million doses to be available by the end of March. The Texas Department of State Health Services has said it expects to receive about 200,000 doses, but has not released a timeline of when doses will be shipped and available.

How was the vaccine passed?

Johnson & Johnson proposed their single-shot COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use authorization to the FDA earlier this month. On Thursday, the department said they found the vaccine to be safe and effective after conducting a clinical trial.

When tested on 44,000 people around the world, the vaccine was found to be around 66% effective against moderate to severe symptoms 28 days after vaccination. The vaccine's efficacy was highest, at 72%, in the U.S., while it was found to be lower in countries such as South Africa where more infectious strains are prevalent.

Most notably, none of the clinical trial participants died from COVID-19 at least 28 days after the shot. The vaccine also appears to drastically cut down hospitalizations to the disease and showed 86% efficacy against severe reactions.

What makes this vaccine different than the others?

While the two existing vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, are more effective—around 95%—the Johnson & Johnson candidate has three significant advantages.

First, the vaccine is infinitely easier to store and ship. When the winter storm hit Texas, power outages wiped out about 1,000 Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in the state, which are required to be refrigerated. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine, however, requires no refrigeration. It also takes up significantly less space because it only requires one dosage instead of two, meaning the same amount of doses can be allocated to twice as many people.

Second, because it is a single-shot vaccine, it will also speed up the painfully slow vaccination process that currently exists.

On Friday, Austin-Travis County Alternate Health Authority Dr. Jason Pickett said that the vaccine's adaptability and ease of use will make it vital to fighting the virus.

"With Johnson & Johnson vaccine, one of the advantages is it does not require the same specific handling that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines do," Pickett said. "Its availability, the fact that you can get one shot only, the fact that it can tolerate a better temperature range and get out to providers that wouldn't be able to handle the other vaccines as easily, makes this a very effective tool in fighting the pandemic."

Finally, the vaccine has proven to be mostly effective against new strains of the disease. When tested against the South African strain, the vaccine still had 64% efficacy at preventing moderate to severe effects from the disease. Moderna and Pfizer were conducted before these more infection strains were widely spread.

What does this mean for Austin and the rest of Texas?

As Joe Biden meets with Gov. Greg Abbott in Houston to talk winter storm damages and the vaccine rollout, a shipment of 1.5 million vaccine doses are being brought to the state for next week. Abbott said that Texas will see vaccine shipments "increase dramatically" in the coming days.

According to Abbott, the state has allocated 8,000 doses to a new "Save Our Seniors" program, which is dedicated to bringing homebound seniors vaccine doses. However, with the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine pending approval on Friday, Abbott said they could have up to four times their original number brought to senior residents.

Abbott said that most of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be targeted toward senior residents. The state of Texas has given around 40% of seniors 65 and older at least one dose of the vaccine, and they hope to jump to 50% by the end of the week.

In late January, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said that the vaccine will be available at any neighborhood pharmacy or medical office.

"In terms of vaccines it is a winner, and there are lots of benefits to this vaccine in terms of the public health response," Escott said. "The fact that it's a single dose makes it feasible for every clinic, every pharmacy, every doctor's office to have supplies so that folks can go to the places they normally get their vaccines to obtain this."


Tito's releases (not so?) ugly sweater line for the holidays, profits to charity

Tito's Handmade Vodka

Show your love for Tito's and for the community this year with a wide selection of not that ugly, uglyish, ugly, uglier, and ugliest holiday sweaters.

There's lots choose from, and plenty of accessories like scarves and socks, plus gear for your dog, too.

All of the items can be purchased online or at the Love, Tito’s Retail Store in Austin, TX. 100% of all net proceeds from online or in-store purchases go to one of the nonprofits we’ve teamed up with.

Click here to see the entire collection in the Tito's store.

Mac and Cheese Fest and Free Art Exhibit
Waterloo Greenway, Good Vibrations Installation

🗓 All weekend

🎨 Creek Show Art Exhibit

Check out this highly anticipated art exhibition with illuminated art along Waller Creek. Tickets are free and the event includes food vendors, dazzling lights, live music, and hands-on activities

All weekend 6 p.m - 10 p.m | 📍Waterloo Park

✨ Mozart's Light Show

This iconic holiday tradition lights up for the first time this holiday season starting this weekend! Reserve your spot for an enchanting light and sound performance, delicious hot cocoa, sweet treats, and some overall fun with your friends or family. The show runs till January 6th.

6 p.m and 9 p.m | 📍Mozart's Coffee Roasters - 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX 78703

🗓 Saturday

🥊 Kickboxing in the Park

This fitness event is free and open to the public. Get your morning started right with a "Fitness in the park" class for kickboxing! The class will be led by certified instructors and is a great way to get a cardio workout in while also honing your self-defense skills.

10 a.m - 11 a.m | 📍 Metz Park

🛍 The Front Market

Support local LBGTQ+ and female artists at this outdoor market with over 150 vendors. Get your holiday shopping out of the way at this event, with vendors for food trucks, handmade goods, raffles, hands on workshops and activities, and more.

11 a.m - 5 p.m | 📍Ani's Day and Night - 7107 E Riverside Drive, Austin, TX 78741

🗓 Sunday

🧀 Mac and Cheese Fest

Did someone say cheese?! If you're like me and always willing to get your hands on a bowl of mac and cheese, then this event is for you. Check out the Mac and Cheese festival happening this weekend to decide which vendor has. the best mac and cheese for yourself, and enjoy the bar with creative cocktails while you're at it. Tickets start at $45.

11 a.m - 3 p.m | 📍Lantana Place - 7415 Southwest Parkway