The risk of death from Covid is almost zero for people who receive an increased dose and are treated, according to the king of the White House.

A senior health official said on Tuesday that people who receive their vaccines on time and receive treatment when they have breakthrough infections are at almost no risk of dying from Covid-19.

Dr. Ashish Jha, head of the White House Covid task force, said the US has made significant strides in the fight against Covid since the early days of the pandemic, when thousands of people died daily from the virus.

“If you are up to date with your vaccines and if you are being treated, if you have a breakthrough infection, your risk of dying from Covid is now close to zero,” Jha told reporters at the White House.

More than 300 people die on average from Covid every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Jha told reporters last week that 70% of people aged 75 and over who die from the virus have not had their last shots or are not getting the treatment they need. He said that this death rate is unacceptable given all the tools the US now has at its disposal to fight the virus.

Jha urged people who have symptoms of Covid to get tested so they can be diagnosed and receive treatment, such as the Paxlovid antiviral pill, when needed.

“The treatment that we offer today for free keeps people out of the hospital, keeps people out of the intensive care unit, generally prevents the worst outcome,” Jha said.

People over 50 and those who are otherwise at increased risk, such as those with weak immune systems or serious illnesses, should seriously consider treatment, he said.

In September, the US launched new launch vehicles targeting the dominant Omicron BA.5 sub-variant. While there’s no real data on their effectiveness yet, Jha said they should provide a much higher degree of protection based on what scientists know about how the human immune system works.

Health officials expect the number of Covid infections to increase from November to January, as it has done every fall and winter since the pandemic began, Jha said. But it’s hard to predict if the US will face another major Covid spike because the virus continues to evolve, he added.

“We are not helpless in the face of these problems. What happens in the weeks and months ahead will have a big impact on how winter plays out, and what really happens this winter is largely up to us, the American people,” Jha said on Tuesday.

He urged everyone aged 12 and over to get a new Covid shot by Halloween so they have Thanksgiving protection when the holiday season is in full swing. Everyone who qualifies should also go out and get their annual flu shot, he said, because health officials are expecting a serious flu season for the first time since the pandemic began.

One caveat: People who have recently contracted Covid can wait three months to get vaccinated because the infection also boosts your immunity, Jha said.

“Don’t wait – get a new flu shot and a new Covid shot today,” Jha said. “If Americans did this, we could save hundreds of lives every day this winter.”

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