May 13, 2022

White House covid chief Dr. Ashish Jha is sounding an alarm 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. Via the Associated Press:

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 be necessary — with the potential for enhanced protection from a new generation of shots.

[...] “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.

And of course the Republicans are blocking the money:

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 U.S. has run out of federal COVID-19 response funding to place new orders of vaccines.

“If we had the resources we’d be there having those conversations today,” said Jha. “The window is really closing on us if we want to be in the front of the line.”

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