For some of the 39% of the U.S.'s unvaccinated population, FDA approval stood in the way of their trust of the COVID-19 vaccine, along with other points of contention. But since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration officially approved Pfizer on Monday, health officials are hoping it will be the final push to get people vaccinated.
I will continue reminding people the Covid19 vaccine is safe and highly effective. If you had your doubts Pfizer vaccine is now fully approved by the FDA.— Maram Museitif (@MaramMPH) August 23, 2021
Just a reminder that Fentanyl was also approved by the FDA. Just because the FDA says it’s safe, doesn’t make it safe.— Alex Jones was right (@AlexJonesWs) August 23, 2021
Sitting at Stage 5 of Austin Public Health's risk-based guidelines for about a month, the resurgence of COVID cases and hospitalizations in Austin isn't declining. As each week goes by, local health officials are pleading for the remaining 34% of Austinites to get vaccinated. Currently, almost all hospital admissions are coming from unvaccinated individuals, according to APH. "We have full approval of the Pfizer vaccine, here's hoping that those that were hesitant to be vaccinated will now go forward and get vaccinated to help with ending this pandemic," said Dr. Desmar Walkes, APH health authority.
Will the FDA approval change the minds of the unvaccinated?
Only time will tell. But, we know that the unvaccinated are unlikely to change their mind. According to a recent poll, 80% of unvaccinated American adults said they probably or definitely will not receive the vaccine.
Judith Moreno, a 26-year-old Austinite who is in between waitressing and working for UPS, is not vaccinated. Moreno said she never went into quarantine—she was always working a job that was considered "essential"—and has never tested positive for the virus.
Moreno said she's glad to hear the news of the approval but still doesn't have any plans to get vaccinated.
"I just haven't gotten sick and I've been around people who have been sick and I've taken tests and tests and tests," Moreno said. "I feel like my body isn't in need of the vaccine—my immune system is pretty good because it's kept me from getting sick until now."
Moreno said she has family members, like her mother and grandmother, who are vaccinated and want her to get vaccinated. But Moreno says she doesn't feel like she's putting people in danger by abstaining because she mostly just maintains a routine from work to home.
"I believe that it's a real virus but I just haven't been 100% convinced to take the vaccine," Moreno said. "I'm very selfish but it's survival of the fittest out here right now. I'm religious so like if God's gonna take you, God's gonna take you regardless of whether you're vaccinated or not."
Reasons for not getting the vaccine
Aside from feeling that she is healthy enough to refrain, Moreno said she worries that the vaccine might have been rushed and could negatively impact her fertility down the line. Austin City Council Member Vanessa Fuentes told Travis county commissioners and Austin city council on Tuesday she is hearing similar concerns from members of the community.
To address these concerns, Austin Public Health has plans to include messaging about the FDA approval in its vaccine campaigns. "We want people to know in simple layman's terms what it means about the FDA approval and the safety and efficacy of those vaccines," APH Directory Adrienne Stirrup said on Tuesday.
Maram Museitif, a public health practitioner who sits on the board for Central Health, said she's heard plenty of different reasons people are reluctant to get poked, including fertility health and fear over long-term effects, inability to take off work to cope with potential symptoms, language barriers, lack of insurance and a rapid spread of misinformation.
Working at Central Health, which offers medical health plans to underserved communities, Museitif said she believes the best way to tackle those issues is to engage others in empathetic conversation.
"We're trying in the health arena to meet people where they are, so we need to really engage them, understand why you are hesitant to receive it," Museitif said. "We cannot assume everyone knows. But we have to build trust, and building trust takes a lot of time and effort and resources. There are a lot of barriers; It's going to take an army."
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After months of speculation, a new report says political personality Beto O'Rourke is mulling a run for Texas governor that he will announce later this year.
Sources tell Axios the former congressman is preparing his campaign for the 2022 election, where he will likely vie for the position against incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott. The only other candidate that has announced he will take on Abbott for governor is former Texas GOP Chairman Allen West—no Democrats have announced they are running as of yet.
"No decision has been made," Axios reports David Wysong, O'Rourke's former House chief of staff and a longtime adviser, said. "He has been making and receiving calls with people from all over the state."
A new poll from The Dallas Morning News and University of Texas at Tyler shows O'Rourke is narrowing the gap between himself and Abbott's prospects for governor. In the poll, 37% said they'd vote for O'Rourke over Abbott, while 42% said they'd vote for Abbott.
Abbott has been in the hot seat due to his handling of COVID-19 and the signing of landmark legislation into law, including new abortion and voting rights laws; 54% of poll respondents voted they think the state is headed in the "wrong direction." Still, Texas hasn't had a Democrat as governor since the 90s.
O'Rourke's people-focused approach to the 2018 Senator race, which he lost to Sen. Ted Cruz, gave him a widespread following and many hoped he'd throw his hat into the ring since he said he was considering it earlier this year.
"We hope that he's going to run," Gilberto Hinojosa, the state chair of the Democratic Party, told Axios. "We think he'll be our strongest candidate. We think he can beat Abbott because he's vulnerable."
Austin rapper Jordi Esparza may not have won the 2021 Red Bull Batalla, the world's largest Spanish freestyle rap competition, but for a spirited two rounds, the 22-year old Mexican native looked like he had every right to.
On Saturday evening in Los Angeles, the event itself looked like Cobra Kai meets Star Search with graphics adding a very Batman Beyond aesthetic. Over a dozen rappers hoping to represent the U.S. in the international round of the competition took to the stage with in-your-face jabs at accents, sexual orientation and odors, among other things.
This was Esparza's second rodeo; he had placed third at the 2020 National Finals, automatically securing him a spot this year.
However, things were different this year. He was not nervous about the contest. Unlike in 2020, when he made his Red Bull Batalla debut, the anxiety of the event led him to "feeling so bad."
Affecting a casual calm, the locally-based landscaper said he just felt "so relaxed, so happy" and primarily wanted to "enjoy everything."
Choosing his first-round opponent, Esparza, whose stage name is Jordi, elected to go against LA-based Boss.
Esparza freestyled an attack on his opponent's weight and cholo style of dress.
Boss—bracketing his Latin freestyle with English appeals to the crowd—mocked Jordi's lack of education, made fun of how clean Jordi's shoes looked and suggested that Jordi just came back from a Footlocker.
That first round went to Jordi.
But his next opponent Eckonn would prove to be his undoing.
Eckonn compared Jordi to Hannah Montana, while Jordi soulfully explained that he had learned from the best.
Esparza's verbal dexterity is matched by a rattling rhythm and a game face that is as mawkish as it is mockish. The overall effect is that of an underdog with bite.
Eckonn beat Esparza in that round with the overall championship going to Palm Beach-based rapper Reverse.
However, Esparza was just happy to be there. He recently told Austonia going to the finals again was a dream come true—a pinnacle that he said he won't know how to top.
With his nimble jabs and sneaky prowess, honed from pop culture and the swagger of a young working man hungry to be more, Jordi Esparza is just getting started.