The US is tracking several coronavirus omicron subvariants that evade immunity more easily, but the new booster shots should protect against them, according to a top health official on Tuesday.
According to Dr. Ashish Jha, head of the White House Covid task force, health officials are closely monitoring the subvariants because they render many treatments ineffective.
However, because they all descend from omicron BA.2 or omicron BA.5, the new booster shots available in the United States should provide a much higher level of protection against the variants, Jha told reporters at the White House.
In September, the United States released updated boosters that target the omicron BA.5 variant. Pfizer’s new shots are available to people aged 12 and up, while Moderna’s boosters are available to adults aged 18 and up.
According to CDC data, Omicron BA.5 is responsible for approximately 80% of new infections in the United States. However, data show that other subvariants such as BA.2.75, BA.4.6, and BF.7 are making inroads.
According to Jha, health officials anticipate an increase in infections from November to January. He added that because the virus is evolving, it is difficult to predict whether there will be a significant surge.
People should receive their new booster by Halloween so that they are protected by the time their families gather for Thanksgiving, he said. People who have recently contracted Covid, on the other hand, can wait three months for the new shots because infection boosts immunity, he adds.
According to CDC data, more than 11 million people have received the new boosters so far. Jha anticipates that more people will get the shots this month, ahead of the holiday season.
Health officials in the United States are most concerned about the elderly. Last week, Jha told reporters that 70% of those dying from Covid are 75 and older. He claims that the majority of elderly people who die are either not up to date on their vaccines or are not receiving treatment after a breakthrough infection.
According to CDC data, more than 300 people are still dying from Covid every day. Last week, Jha stated that the deaths are unacceptably high given the widespread availability of vaccines and treatments.
“Your risk of dying from Covid is now close to zero if you are up to date on your vaccines and if you get treated if you have a breakthrough infection,” Jha said on Tuesday.
Jha also chastised Congress for failing to fund Covid at the White House’s request of $22 billion. The Biden administration had to reorganise funds in order to stockpile the new booster shots.
As a result, the United States lacks an adequate national stockpile of personal protective equipment or Covid tests, according to Jha.
According to Jha, the United States lacks the resources to invest in developing the next generation of vaccines and treatments. He also mentioned that the current booster campaign has been more limited due to a lack of funding.
“There is no doubt that our response has been hampered by a lack of funding,” Jha said.