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Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Associated Press interview: America ‘vulnerable’ to COVID without new shots

WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) – Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s COVID-19 coordinator, has issued a dire warning that the US will be increasingly vulnerable to the coronavirus. This fall and winter if Congress doesn’t swiftly approve new funding for more vaccines and treatments.

In an Associated Press interview on Thursday, Jha said that as Americans’ immune defenses from the virus are eroding, the virus is becoming more contagious and that a booster dose will be necessary for most people — the potential for increased protection from a new generation of shots. with.

His warning came as the White House said there could be up to 100 million infections from the virus later this year – and as President Joe Biden ordered flags to half-staff to mark 1 million deaths.

“As we continue to fall, we are all going to be more vulnerable to a virus that evades a lot more immunity than we were today and certainly compared to six months ago,” Jha said. “That leaves a lot of us insecure.”

Jha predicted that the next generation of vaccines, which are likely to target the currently prevalent Omicron strain, “are going to provide a lot of protection against the virus, which we will face in the fall and winter.” But he warned that the US was at risk of losing its place compared to other countries if Congress did not act over the next several weeks.

Speaking about the need to provide vaccination support to other nations, Jha put urgency in terms of benefits to Americans, even if they never travel abroad.

“All of these types were previously identified outside the United States,” he said. “If the goal is to protect the American people, we have to make sure the world is vaccinated. I mean, there’s no ‘household-only’ approach here.”

His remarks came after he and Biden addressed the second global COVID-19 vaccination summit and pressured the international community not to become complacent in addressing the pandemic.

Here in the US, Biden requested $22.5 billion in emergency funding for the virus response in March, but the money has been withheld, first by sticker-shock in Congress and now by pandemic-era migrant restrictions in US-Mexico. In the midst of a dispute over ending. Limit.

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Jha said he has been making the case for lawmakers for additional funding for weeks, calling it a “very low request” and “the minimum we need to get through this fall and winter without major loss of life.” “

The Food and Drug Administration is to meet in June to determine the specific strains of the virus that the vaccines will target in the fall, and Jha said it takes two to three months for manufacturers to develop them. The US has now run out of federal COVID-19 response funds to place new orders for vaccines.

“If we had the resources, we would have been holding talks today,” Jha said. “The window is really closing in on us if we want to be at the forefront of the line.”

“I would say we’re really on that deadline and waiting more gets us further down the line,” he said. “If we’re willing to be at the back of the line and get our vaccines in the spring, we have plenty of time. But then we’ll have missed the whole fall and winter. That’s not an acceptable outcome, I think, American for the people.

Jha, who a month ago took over coordinating the federal government’s response to the virus, called the 1 million US pandemic deaths a “dull” day.

“Every single one of those deaths is tragic, many of them are preventable,” he said.

Acknowledging that “reaching zero is going to be a challenge,” Jha said that most deaths from the virus are now preventable, with vaccinations and boosters, and with effective therapeutics, the challenge is often this. Makes sure they are available to people when they need them.

“We have a lot of capabilities and we have to deploy them at full speed and full capacity to ensure that no one dies from this disease,” he said.

Jha said there is “no viable alternative route” right now than the US government taking the lead in securing COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, rather than allowing a commercial market deal with procurement like other medical treatments. He cited the global mismatch between supply and demand.

“We have to see the US government still play an active role,” he said. “That role will change over time. But right now it’s still important.”

“One of the things we are talking about with Congress is that these tools are great – but only if you have them, then you can use them,” Jha said. “And it may be very difficult to continue to protect the American people without the support of Congress.”

On an international topic, he addressed China’s “zero COVID” policy, which has led to dramatic lockdowns in some of China’s biggest cities, disrupting everyday life and contributing to global supply chain issues.

“I don’t think it makes sense,” Jha said. He stressed that the US strategy is “very different”, with a focus on preventing serious illness and death.

“For me, it’s a more sustainable long-term management strategy,” he said. “I think it will be difficult for China to continue this for a long time.”

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