Get new Omicron booster and a flu shot, White House says

Get new Omicron booster and a flu shot, White House says

WASHINGTON — The new COVID-19 vaccines that received final approval last week mark a new phase in the fight against the disease, senior health officials in the Biden administration said during a press conference on Tuesday.

Originally released in late 2020, the COVID vaccines have now been updated to target the BA.4 and BA.5 strains of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, which were prevalent that year.

“For a large majority of Americans, we’re moving to a point where a single annual COVID shot should provide a high level of year-round protection against serious illness,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the coordinator of the White House pandemic response team. Jha called the new vaccines a “major milestone”, although he warned that “variant curveballs” could dashed hopes of boosted immunity.

dr  Ashish Jha, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator, stands at a White House podium.

dr Ashish Jha at the daily White House press briefing on July 22. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

“For the first time since December 2020, these vaccines — our vaccines — have caught up with the virus.” said yeah, noting that the United States is the first nation to develop an Omicron-specific vaccine. He added that the Biden administration is coordinating with states and localities to distribute the vaccine to “tens of thousands” of locations in the coming days.

As with previous COVID-19 immunization efforts, vaccinations will be free. Anyone over the age of 12 is eligible to participate.

“We’re probably moving down a path with a vaccination cadence similar to that of the annual flu vaccine,” added Dr. Anthony Fauci, the President’s chief pandemic adviser. In the coming months, pharmacies are expected to offer the COVID and flu vaccines together in hopes of avoiding “twindemia” caused by two respiratory viruses circulating at the same time.

“I really believe that’s why God gave us two arms,” ​​Jha quipped, “one for the flu shot and the other for the COVID shot.”

The targeting of the new vaccines to the strains circulating today is an implicit bet that the virus will continue to evolve along the omicron pathway rather than in a new and unpredictable direction.

“Get your updated COVID-19 as soon as you qualify,” Fauci said, reminding people that the vaccines have been proven safe and effective.

A nurse wearing protective gloves and a surgical mask gives a man a COVID booster shot.

Nurse Cleopatra Oniya administers a COVID-19 booster shot at Ted Watkins Park in Los Angeles on May 5. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

If the virus only experiences what Fauci called a “minor deviation” from BA.5, the bivalent vaccine should be able to tell the difference. But Fauci, who has been fighting infectious diseases for four decades, warned that the pathogen originally known as SARS-CoV-2 could evolve in ways that render current vaccines ineffective.

“If that happens all bets are void – and we switch,” Fauci said.

Jha said the goal is to develop vaccines that don’t require constant updates. “We have to get to the point where we have variant-safe vaccines, we have mucosal vaccines. We have to play the long game against this virus,” he said.

The Biden administration for months asked Congress for additional funding to develop new vaccines and ensure pandemic preparedness. These pleas have met with no success on Capitol Hill.




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