White House Covid czar urges seniors to get omicron booster now
On Monday, a senior White House health official issued a stern warning to seniors about the health risks they face this fall and winter due to Covid-19.
Dr. Ashish Jha, head of the White House Covid task force, said all people over 50 and especially the elderly need to get an omicron booster as soon as possible.
“If you are over 50, and if you are over 65, you should get these shots because they can literally save your life. It’s the difference between life and death,” Jah said in an interview with Yahoo. Finance.
The elderly have faced a high risk of becoming seriously ill with Covid since the beginning of the pandemic. On average, more than 330 people still die every day from Covid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 70% of people dying from Covid now are people aged 75 or older, Jah told reporters earlier this month. He said people dying from Covid are either not up to date with their vaccines or not receiving treatment, such as the Paxlovid antiviral pill, when they have breakthrough infections.
“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,” Jah told reporters at the White House last week.
He said people should get their omicron booster by Halloween so they have Thanksgiving protection when families and friends start gathering for the holidays. US health officials expect a new infection this winter as people spend more time indoors, where the virus is more easily transmitted by airborne droplets.
The FDA and CDC are confident that the new boosters will provide better protection against infection as they target the dominant omicron BA.5 subvariant, and first-generation vaccines have been developed against the first strain that emerged in Wuhan, China. in 2019. .
Initial shots no longer provide meaningful protection against infections and minor illnesses because the virus has mutated heavily since the start of the pandemic. In addition to Omicron BA.5, the new boosters also include the original Covid strain. Health officials believe these bivalent vaccines will provide superior protection even as the virus continues to evolve because vaccines cover so many mutations.
It is not yet clear how effective the new accelerators will be in the real world. The FDA authorized vaccinations without direct human data, instead relying on clinical trials for a similar vaccine targeting the first version of omicron, BA.1.
Last week, Pfizer and BioNTech released the first direct data on human vaccinations. The boosters significantly increased protective antibodies in adults aged 18 years and older against omicron BA.5, according to the companies. Antibodies block the entry of the virus into human cells.
Young people should also get revaccinated this fall, Jha said, although they are at lower risk of becoming seriously ill with the virus. Last week, the FDA and CDC quickly approved omicron shots for children ages 5 and up. Jha said the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks for young people.
“I urged my whole family to get vaccinated, all my friends to get vaccinated, my nieces, nephews and children to get vaccinated because for them the benefits outweigh the risks,” Jha said.
During the massive omicron surge last January, there was a wave of children hospitalized with Covid. Doctors are also concerned that children and young people develop long-term Covid even if their infection is mild.
There is an increased risk of an inflammation of the heart called myocarditis in young men and adolescent boys, mostly after a second dose of Pfizer and Moderna shots. But the CDC, in a study published last April, said the risk of myocarditis is higher after contracting Covid.
The fall booster campaign has begun sluggishly since vaccinations were introduced in September, and about 15 million doses have been administered to date, according to the CDC. Jha said he expects more people to start receiving boosters this month.