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US ‘vulnerable’ to COVID without new vaccines, White House says

May 13, 2022 – The United States will become increasingly vulnerable to the coronavirus in the fall and winter of this year if Congress does not approve new funding for more vaccines and treatments, Ashish Jha, MD , the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, said Thursday.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Jha said booster doses will be needed for most people as immune protection wanes and the virus adapts to become more contagious. Additionally, a new generation of projectiles may be required for better protection against new variants.

“As we come into the fall, we are all going to be much more vulnerable to a virus that has much more immune evasion than even today and certainly six months ago,” he said. . “It makes a lot of us vulnerable.”

Also on Thursday, President Joe Biden ordered flags to be flown at half mast through May 16 to mark 1 million COVID-19 deaths in the United States during the pandemic, according to ABC News.

Last week, the White House released an estimate that up to 100 million Americans could be infected with the coronavirus over the fall and winter, which could lead to a significant increase in hospitalizations and deaths. death.

Jha noted that the next generation of vaccines, which would likely focus on the Omicron variant, “are going to provide a much, much higher degree of protection against the virus that we will encounter in the fall and winter.” At the same time, if Congress does not pass legislation to support new funding in the coming weeks, the United States could lose priority over other countries in securing vaccine supplies, he said. he told the AP.

In March, the Biden administration requested $22.5 billion for coronavirus aid, which has stalled in Congress for several reasons, including a call from Republicans to withdraw $5 billion in global aid. Jha told the AP he’s spoken with lawmakers in recent weeks, saying the current $10 billion proposal is “the bare minimum we need to get through this fall and winter without major loss of life. “.

Additionally, Jha called on the United States to provide vaccine assistance to other countries to slow the spread of additional variants and mutations.

“All of these variants were first identified outside of 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 just no national-only approach here.

The FDA is due to meet in June to decide which strains of the coronavirus will be targeted in vaccines made for the fall, the AP reported. Jha specifies that it takes two to three months for the builders to develop the shots, so the decision must be made in the summer to prepare for the fall. Right now, he added, the United States is running out of federal COVID-19 response funds to order new batches of vaccines.

“If we had the resources, we would be here having these conversations today,” Jha said. “The window is really closing on us if we want to be at the front of the line.”

Jha took over the role of COVID-19 response coordinator at the White House a month ago, the AP reported. He said there was “no other viable avenue” at the moment other than the US government to direct the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, rather than letting the commercial market manage it.

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

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