White House pushes COVID boosters as variants spread rapidly – ​​NBC Chicago

The Biden administration is calling on people to exercise renewed caution about COVID-19, stressing the importance of getting reminders for those who are eligible and wearing masks indoors, as two new variants highly transmissible diseases are spreading rapidly across the country.

The new variants, labeled BA.4 and BA.5, are offshoots of the omicron strain that has been responsible for nearly all of the virus’s spread in the United States and are even more contagious than their predecessors. White House doctors have stressed the importance of getting booster doses, even if you’ve recently been infected.

“Right now, many Americans are under-vaccinated, which means they’re not up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Keeping up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines provides the best protection against serious consequences.”

Walensky said the United States has seen a doubling in the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations since April, reflecting the spread of new subvariants, although deaths have remained steady at around 300 per day.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said while the new variants are concerning, with reminders, indoor masking and treatments, the country has the tools to prevent them from being disruptive.

“We shouldn’t let it disrupt our lives,” he said, “but we can’t deny that it’s a reality we have to face.”

He added that even if someone had recently had COVID-19, they should get a booster.

“Immunity is waning, so staying up to date with COVID 19 vaccines is critical,” he said.

All Americans age 5 and older should receive a booster five months after their first primary series, according to the CDC, and those age 50 and older — or who are immunocompromised — should receive a second booster four months after their first. According to the CDC, tens of millions of eligible Americans did not receive their first booster, and of those over 50 who received their first booster, only 28% received their second.

The subvariants are now responsible for 70% of new coronavirus cases, and their immunity to existing vaccines worries scientists. Here’s what you need to know about subvariants.

“If you’re over 50 and haven’t had your shot this year, you should go get your shot,” said White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha. “It will save your life.”

Jha and Fauci said the United States has been regularly discussing expanding eligibility for a second booster to all adults, but no decision has yet been made.

“It’s a regulatory decision on the part of the FDA,” Fauci said.

Jha insisted that people who are eligible for a booster but have not received one should not wait for future vaccines targeting the omicron strain in addition to the original form of the coronavirus. The United States has ordered 105 million of these updated vaccines, which studies have shown provide better protection against omicron variants, but they won’t be available until the fall.

“Let’s be clear, if you get vaccinated today, you will not be ineligible to receive the variant-specific vaccine, as we are entering the latter part of fall and winter,” Jha said. “So it’s not a compromise, we have a lot. It’s a great way to protect yourself.

Fauci added: “The threat to you is now.”

Walensky noted that CDC data shows about a third of Americans live in areas the agency classifies as experiencing a high level of COVID spread, where the agency recommends people wear masks in indoor spaces. public. Another 41% live in the CDC’s “medium” level, where it recommends people consider their own individual risk and consider masking.

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