The AP Interview: US ‘vulnerable’ to COVID without new shots

 The AP Interview: US ‘vulnerable’ to COVID without new shots

WASHINGTON (AP) – White House COVID -19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha issued a stern warning on Thursday that the U.S. could be even more vulnerable to the coronavirus this fall and winter if Congress does not immediately approve new funding for additional vaccines and treatments.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Jha said that protecting Americans ’resistance from the virus is slowing, the virus is adapting to be more contagious and booster doses for most people are necessary – with the potential for additional protection from a new generation of shots.

His warning came as the White House said there could be as many as 100 million infections from the virus later this year-and as President Joe Biden sadly ordered middle-staff flags to mark the 1 million deaths.

“As we come into the fall, we all have a much greater vulnerability to a virus that has a much greater escape resistance than now and certainly than it did six months ago,” Jha said. “It leaves most of us vulnerable.”

Jha predicts that the next generation of vaccines, likely targeted at the now -existing omicron strain, “will provide an even higher level of protection against the virus that we encounter in the fall and winter.” But he warned that the U.S. risks losing their place in the line of other countries if Congress does not act in the coming weeks.

Speaking about the need to provide vaccination assistance in other countries, Jha expressed urgency about the benefits to Americans, even if they do not travel abroad.

“All of these variants were first recognized outside the United States,” he said. “If the goal is to protect Americans, we need to make sure the world is vaccinated. I mean, there’s no longer a domestic-only approach here.”

His comments came after he and Biden spoke at the second global COVID-19 vaccination summit and forced the international community to be dissatisfied with tackling the pandemic.

Here in the U.S., Biden asked for $ 22.5 billion in emergency funding for responding to the virus in March, but the money was withheld, first by sticker-shock in Congress and now amid controversy over ending migrant bans during the pandemic on the US-Mexico border.

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Jha said he made the case with lawmakers for more funding over several weeks, calling it a “very good request” and “the least we need to get this fall and winter without. there is a lot of loss of life. “

The Food and Drug Administration will meet in June to identify specific virus strains targeted by fall vaccines, and Jha said it will take two to three months for manufacturers to develop them. Now the U.S. has run out of federal COVID-19 response funding to place new orders on vaccines.

“If we had the resources we would be there to have conversations now,” Jha said. “The window really closes on us if we want to be ahead of the line.”

“I would say we’re pretty much on that deadline and the wait longer puts us behind the line,” he added. “If we’re ready to be behind the line and get our vaccinations in the spring, we have plenty of time. But we can’t forget the whole fall and winter. That’s not an acceptable outcome, I think, for those. American.

Jha, who took over the job of coordinating the federal government’s response to the virus a month ago, called marking the 1 million pandemic deaths in America a “somber” day.

“Each of the deaths is tragic, many of them are preventable,” he said.

While recognizing that “reaching zero can be a challenge,” Jha said most deaths from the virus can now be prevented, with vaccinations and boosters, and with effective therapies, The challenge has always been ensuring that it applies to people if they. need them.

“We have a lot of capabilities and we need to spread it at full speed and at full capacity to make sure no one dies from this disease,” he said.

Jha said there is “no viable alternative route” today than the U.S. government will take the lead in securing COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, instead of allowing the commercial market to negotiate procurement like other medical devices. treatment. He cited the global mismatch between supply and demand.

“We need the U.S. government to play an active role,” he said. “That role will change over time. But now that is still critical. ”

“One of the things we’re talking about in Congress is that these tools are good – but if you have them, if you can use them,” Jha said. “And without support from Congress it can be difficult to continue to protect Americans.”

On an international topic, he referred to China’s “zero COVID” policy, which has led to the dramatic lockouts of some of China’s largest cities, disrupting daily life and contributing to issues. in the global supply chain.

“I don’t think it makes sense,” Jha said. He stressed that the U.S. strategy is “very different,” focusing on preventing serious illness and death.

“For me, that’s a much more sustainable long -term approach to management,” he said. “I think China will have a hard time maintaining this for a long time.”

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