In a wake of the two new highly transmissible omicron variants of COVID-19, the Biden administration is calling on people to exercise renewed caution about the COVID-19 pandemic and also emphasizing the importance of getting booster shots for those who are eligible. The White House has also urged people to wear masks indoors as the new variant is spreading rapidly across the country.
The new variants, labelled as BA.4 and BA.5, are offshoots of the omicron strain that has been responsible for nearly all of the virus transmission in the United States of America and are even more contagious than their predecessors. The doctors in the White House stressed the importance of getting booster doses, even if people have recently been infected.
In a statement, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, “Currently, many Americans are under-vaccinated, meaning they are not up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines. Staying up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines provides the best protection against severe outcomes.”
Dr. Rochelle Walensky also raised concerns as the U.S. has seen a doubling in the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 since April, reflecting the spread of the new subvariants, though deaths remain steady around 300 per day.
Citing concerns regards to the new variant, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, reacted that the new variants are concerning, with booster shots, indoor masking and treatments the country has the tools to keep them from being disruptive.
In a statement, Dr Fauci said, “We should not let it disrupt our lives, but we cannot deny that it is a reality that we need to deal with. Immunity wanes, so it is critical to stay up to date with COVID 19 vaccines.”
He added that even if someone recently had COVID-19, they should get a booster shot.
All Americans age 5 and over should get a booster shot five months after their initial primary series, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and those age 50 and over, or those who are immunocompromised should get a second booster shot four months after their first.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tens of millions of eligible Americans haven’t received their first booster shot, and of those over 50 who got their first booster, only 28% have received their second.
White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said, “If you’re over 50 and you haven’t gotten the shot this year, you should go get a shot. It’s going to save your life.”
Dr. Ashish Jha and Dr. Anthony Fauci bilaterally agreed that the USA is regularly discussing expanding eligibility for a second booster shot to all adults, but that no decision has been made yet.
“It’s a regulatory decision on the part of the FDA,” Fauci said.
Regards to the eligibility of the booster shot Dr. Ashish Jha said people who are eligible for a booster shot but haven’t received one shouldn’t wait for forthcoming vaccines targeted at the omicron strain in addition to the original form of the coronavirus. The U.S. has ordered 105 million of those updated shots, which studies show to provide better protection against omicron variants, but they won’t be available until the fall.
In a statement, Dr. Jha made it clear saying, “Let me be clear, if you get vaccinated today, you’re not going to be ineligible to get the variants specific vaccine, as we get into the later part of fall and winter. So, this is not a trade-off, we’ve got plenty. It’s a great way to protect yourself.”
Further, Dr. Rochelle Walensky noted that CDC data shows that about a third of Americans are living in areas the agency classifies as experiencing a high level of COVID spread, where the agency recommends people wear masks in public indoor spaces. Whereas another 41% live in the CDC’s “medium” level, where it recommends that people consider their own individual risk and consider masking.
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