US Must Act on New Vaccines Quickly, COVID Chief Warns

Funding has dried up, preventing the government from ordering more
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 12, 2022 7:45 PM CDT
US Must Act on New Vaccines Quickly, COVID Chief Warns
Dr. Ashish Jha is interviewed Thursday in the White House complex.   (AP Photo/Nathan Elgren)

The White House COVID-19 response coordinator issued a dire warning Thursday that the US will be increasingly vulnerable to the coronavirus this fall and winter if Congress doesn't swiftly approve new funding for more vaccines and treatments. Dr. Ashish Jha told the AP that Americans' immune protection from the virus is waning, the virus is adapting to be more contagious, and booster doses for most people will be necessary—with the potential for enhanced protection from a new generation of shots. The White House has said there could be as many as 100 million infections from the virus starting in the fall.

"As we get to the fall, we are all going to have a lot more vulnerability to a virus that has a lot more immune escape than even it does today and certainly than it did six months ago,” Jha said. "That leaves a lot of us vulnerable." Jha predicted that the next generation of vaccines, which are likely to be targeted at the currently prevailing omicron strain, "are going to provide a much, much higher degree of protection against the virus that we will encounter in the fall and winter." But he warned that the US is at risk of losing its place in line to other countries if Congress doesn't act soon.

The Food and Drug Administration is to meet in June to determine the specific strains of the virus that the fall vaccines will target, and Jha said it takes two to three months for manufacturers to develop them. Right now, the US has run out of federal COVID-19 response funding to place new orders of vaccines, per the AP. "If we had the resources we’d be there having those conversations today," said Jha, adding: "If we're willing to be in the back of the line and get our vaccines in the spring, we have plenty of time. But then we'll have missed the entire fall and winter. That's not an acceptable outcome, I think, for the American people."

(More coronavirus vaccine stories.)

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