May 13, 2022 — The U.S. will become increasingly vulnerable to the coronavirus this fall and winter if Congress doesn’t approve new funding for more vaccines and treatments, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha, MD, Thursday Say.
in an interview Most people will need booster doses as immune protection wanes and the virus adapts to become more contagious, Jha said in an interview with The Associated Press. Also, a new generation of lenses may be needed to better protect against new variants.
“With the fall, we will all be more vulnerable to a virus that has a much higher immune escape rate than it is today, and certainly more than it was six months ago,” he said. That leaves a lot of us vulnerable.”
Also on Thursday, President Joe Biden ordered flags to be flown at half-staff until May 16 to commemorate the 1 million COVID-19 deaths in the United States during the pandemic. to ABC News.
Last week, the White House Estimates released As many as 100 million Americans could become infected with the coronavirus in the fall and winter, which could lead to a significant increase in hospitalizations and deaths.
Jha noted that next-generation vaccines that may focus on variants of Omicron “will provide a much higher degree of protection against the viruses that we will encounter in the fall and winter.” At the same time, he told the Associated Press, if Congress decides to do so in the coming weeks Without legislation to support the new funding, the U.S. could lose its priority over other countries in securing vaccine supplies.
In March, the Biden administration’s request for $22.5 billion in coronavirus aid stalled in Congress for a number of reasons, including calls by Republicans to cancel $5 billion in global aid. Jha told The Associated Press, who has spoken with lawmakers in recent weeks, that the current $10 billion proposal is “the bare minimum we need to get through this fall and winter without significant loss of life.”
Additionally, Jha called on the U.S. to provide vaccine assistance to other countries to slow the spread of other variants and mutations.
“All of these variants were first discovered outside the United States,” he said. “If the goal is to protect the American people, we have to make sure the whole world is vaccinated. I mean, there’s no domestic-only approach here.”
The FDA plans to meet in June to decide which strains of the coronavirus will target vaccines produced in the fall, according to the Associated Press. Manufacturers need two to three months to develop these lenses, so decisions must be made in the summer to prepare for the fall, Jha said. He added that at this point the U.S. has run out of federal COVID-19 response funding to order new batches of the vaccine.
“If we had the resources, we would be there today for these conversations,” Jha said. “If we want to be at the front of the line, that window really closes.”
Jha took over as White House COVID-19 response coordinator a month ago, according to the Associated Press. He said there is currently “no viable alternative path” to letting the U.S. government lead the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, rather than letting the commercial market handle it.
“One of the things we’ve been discussing with Congress is that these tools are great — but only if you have them, and only you can use them,” Jha said. “Continuing to protect the American people can be very difficult without the support of Congress.”