In Final COVID-19 Briefing, Austin Public Health Says It May Roll Out Booster Shots This Fall
On its last regular COVID-19 briefing since the pandemic started, Austin Public Health officials say they are preparing for a possible mass COVID-19 vaccine booster rollout in the fall.
The need for booster shots is yet to be determined. It will be based on how long the current vaccines are deemed effective in ongoing clinical trials.
Cassandra DeLeon, APH's Chief Administrative Officer for the Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division, said the booster shot may be different from the current vaccine and might include protection against some of the virus variants that have emerged around the globe.
Austin health officials are still encouraging people who qualify for a vaccine and haven't received one yet to get their first dose, including children 12 years and older.
Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County's new Health Authority, said it was important for people who had COVID-19 to make sure they also get vaccinated. Walkes said their antibodies may not be effective in fighting variants and may only last for about 90 days.
President Joe Biden set a national goal of having 70% of adults get at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by the Fourth of July. Currently in Travis County, 66% of adults have been vaccinated, DeLeon said.
The city's health department, which has wound down its mass vaccination clinics, said it is trying to remove the barriers that may be preventing some people from getting vaccinated. APH is holding more events with trusted community partners, ensuring vaccine administrators can speak the preferred languages of the local community, and providing more information to those still concerned about the safety of the vaccines.
DeLeon said people don’t have to present their ID, share their citizenship status or have medical insurance in order to receive the vaccine.
Interim APH Director Adrienne Sturrup said she has heard that some workers are worried about taking time off from their jobs to get vaccinated.
“[We are] having conversations with local businesses and community partners to allow their workers to have the flexibility to take time to go and get the vaccine,” she said.
Sturrup said APH is also working with city and county leaders to come up with an effective incentive program to get more people vaccinated.
Austin Public Health said Friday's COVID-19 news update was the last regular briefing it would have for now. The agency had been hosting these standing news conferences — first weekly and then bi-weekly — throughout the pandemic. They come to an end as the number of cases and hospitalizations in the area have declined and more people get vaccinated.