Despite slow vaccine rollout, Austin COVID-19 modelers hope for ‘some semblance of normal’ this fall

Texas coronavirus vaccine

Empty vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are seen at a vaccination center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in Las Vegas. Makers of COVID-19 vaccines need everything to go right as they scale up from early-stage production to hundreds of millions of doses – and any little hiccup could cause a delay. (AP Photo/John Locher)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As we enter the third month of COVID-19 vaccine distributions across the country, there are two big questions everyone has:

  • When will I be able to get a vaccine?
  • When will life return to normal?

Right now, they remain question marks for most in our area, but those at the University of Texas at Austin who forecast and make predictions about COVID-19 are shining some light on that final question.

“I’m hoping for some semblance of normal this fall,” said Dr. Spencer Fox, a researcher at the UT Modeling Consortium.

On average, Texas gets around 350,000 vaccine doses a week. Of those, Travis County gets only about 13,000.

“Obviously that’s not enough but as we hear about Johnson & Johnson vaccine results which are supposed to be coming out very soon that might be increased even more,” Fox said.

That’s made it difficult even for those high-risk individuals in Groups 1A and 1B to get the vaccine, people like Georgetown resident Mark Davis.

“I’m enrolled at Walgreens, I’m enrolled at H-E-B, I’m enrolled at Austin Public Health, Randalls, and St. David’s here in Georgetown… Nothing,” Davis said. “I’m trying my darndest to get an appointment, so there is no hesitation to get vaccinated.”

Fox says even if people like Davis and other high-risk individuals get vaccinated though, that likely won’t decrease our transmission rate. That’s because those people are much less likely to be out without a mask or gathering in groups.

“We might get to a place in the next few months where actually mortality is very low, however, we’re still seeing widespread transmission of the virus,” Fox said.

Ultimately we have to vaccinate those who are taking risks like going to bars, restaurants, hanging out in large groups with lots of friends, before we see the biggest change in overall cases. That’s the key, Fox says.

“It’s not so much whether we hit herd immunity, it’s whether we start seeing transmission levels that are acceptable to us as a population to start returning back to our normal lifestyles — particularly seeing mortality fall,” Fox said.

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