(CNSNews.com) – “The pandemic isn’t over, and we will remain vigilant,” White House COVID Response Coordinator Ashish Jha told a news conference on Tuesday.
Jha and his team announced the availability of a new COVID shot that will “provide a very high degree of protection” against the currently prevalent BA5 variant.
“It is reasonable to expect, based on what we know about immunology and science of this virus, that these new vaccines will provide better protection against infection, better protection against transmission and ongoing and better protection against serious illness.”
Jha said people 12 and older who are previously vaccinated should now get the new COVID shot:
“If you had a recent infection or were recently vaccinated, it’s reasonable to wait a few months. Now, we expect millions of people to get the shot this month, as folks get back to school, get back to work and get back into their regular routines after the summer.
“And as the annual flu vaccination campaign kicks into high gear later this month and into early October, we expect millions will choose to get their COVID-19 shot at the same time, or over the course of the fall when people go in for routine checkups. The good news is you can get both your flu shot and COVID shot at the same time.
“It’s actually a good idea. I really believe this is why God gave us two arms, one for the flu shot and the other one for the COVID shot. But our goal for this fall is, we will make sure, we the administration, will make sure that vaccines are free, that they’re widely available and they are easy to access for everybody.”
Jha said the administration will make “special efforts” to reach older Americans — such as those in nursing homes and other congregate settings.
“And of course, we will continue to look for and prepare for unforeseen twists and turns, but this week marks an important shift in our fight against the virus. It marks our ability to make COVID vaccines a more routine part of our lives, as we continue to drive down serious illness and deaths and protect Americans heading into the fall and winter.
Jha said barring any “variant curveballs,” the day is coming when a single annual COVID shot will provide a high degree of protection against serious illness all year.
“We need to get to a point where we have variant proof vaccines,” he said. But for the time being, there is no such thing.
Along with the new vaccine comes another request for taxpayer money — $22.4 billion to be exact.
“We are obviously in constant dialogue with — with our colleagues on the Hill, both Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate. And so, they are — I think they know that this request was coming. The request has critical pieces of our response, Jha said.
“Look, we are in a much better place because we’ve been able to respond effectively. Congress is aware that, if we do not continue to fund the response, things — we can easily go backwards. That’s what we are committed to making sure doesn’t happen. So, yeah, those conversations have been ongoing.”
Jha said if another COVID “surge” happens this fall or winter, “Congress likely at that point will step up.” But responding will cost more than preparing, he added.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky recommended that “everyone, regardless of the number or type of previous COVID-19 doses, receives a COVID-19 bivalent vaccine this fall.”
“You can receive an updated vaccine dose at least two months after your last COVID-19 vaccine dose,” she said.
“As 99 percent of circulating viruses in the United States are BA.4 or BA.4, updating our COVID-19 vaccines to match the circulating variants helps us to better be protected against these variants and future variants that might be closely related to Omicron.
“Getting an updated vaccine this fall will help restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination, and laboratory data suggest that the addition of the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 spike protein components may help broaden the spectrum of variants the immune system is ready to respond to.”
“Finally, modeling projections show that an uptake of updated COVID-19 vaccine doses similar to an annual flu vaccine coverage early this fall could prevent as many as 100,000 hospitalizations, 9,000 deaths and save billions of dollars in direct medical cost.”
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