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FDA panel okays Pfizer vaccine, paving the way for it to be administered starting next week
(Pixabay)

An independent advisory panel recommended that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorize Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use. Although the FDA is not obligated to heed the recommendations, it is expected that the federal agency will do so imminently.


Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced last week that the state would receive 1.4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine starting on Monday.

The Austin area will receive an initial allotment of 13,650 doses, which will be distributed to priority populations pending FDA approval.

The first doses will go to a handful of hospitals in Travis, Hays and Williamson counties, with earliest access going to nursing home residents, front-line healthcare workers and EMS first responders, according to Austin Public Health.

"We are excited for our hospital systems partners to begin vaccinating our front-line hospital workers against this virus," Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said in a statement last week.

It will likely take many months before the vaccine is widely available to the general public. Local health officials have stressed that Austinites will need to maintain protective measures—such as masking, social distancing and hand washing—until herd immunity is achieved through inoculation.

The Pfizer vaccine requires ultra-cold storage and two doses, administered three weeks apart. The pharmaceutical company announced last month that preliminary data showed its vaccine was more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19.

Encouragingly, documents published by the FDA earlier this week showed that the Pfizer vaccine provides strong protection against COVID within about 10 days of the first dose, as the New York Times reported Thursday.

The Pfizer vaccine relies on a spike protein invented by a team of scientists led by Dr. Jason McLellan, an associate professor of molecular biosciences at the University of Texas at Austin.

"The fact that many of these leading (vaccine) candidates contain some of these mutations that we designed several years ago is just fantastic," he told Austonia last month.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency in the UK issued an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine last week. Canada's equivalent agency followed suit on Wednesday.

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