White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha issued a dire warning Thursday that the U.S. will be increasingly vulnerable to the coronavirus this fall and winter if Congress doesn’t swiftly approve new funding for more vaccines and treatments.
In an Associated Press interview, Jha said Americans’ immune protection from the virus is waning; the virus is adapting to be more contagious and booster doses for most people will likewise be necessary;—with the potential for enhanced protection from a new generation of shots.
His warning came as the White House said there could be up to 100 million infections from the virus later this year—and as President Joe Biden also somberly ordered flags to half-staff to mark 1 million deaths.
“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 U.S. is at risk of losing its place in line to other countries; if Congress doesn’t act in the next several weeks.
Speaking of a need to provide vaccination assistance to other nations; Jha cast the urgency in terms of the benefits to Americans, even if they never travel overseas.
“All of these variants were first identified outside of the United States,” he said. “If the goal is to protect the American people; we have got to make sure the world is vaccinated. I mean, there’s just no domestic-only approach here.”
His comments came after he and Biden addressed the second global COVID-19 vaccination summit; and also pressed for the international community not to get complacent in addressing the pandemic.
In the U.S., Biden requested $22.5 billion in emergency funding for the virus response in March; but the money has been held up, first by sticker-shock in Congress; and now also amid wrangling over expiring pandemic-era migrant restrictions at the U.S.-Mexico border.