The AP Interview: US ‘vulnerable’ to COVID without new shots

May 12, 2022, 9:31 AM | Updated: 9:34 pm
White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha, speaks to The Associated Press, Thursday,...

White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha, speaks to The Associated Press, Thursday, May 12, 2022 on the White House complex in Washington. Speaking to the Associated Press, Jha said Americans' immune protection from the virus is waning and the virus is adapting to be more contagious, and that booster doses for most people will be necessary — with the potential for enhanced protection from a new generation of shots. (AP Photo/Nathan Elgren)

(AP Photo/Nathan Elgren)

WASHINGTON (AP) — White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha has issued a dire warning 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 Thursday, 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.

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 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 pressed for the international community not to get complacent in addressing the pandemic.

Here 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 amid wrangling over expiring pandemic-era migrant restrictions at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Jha said he’s been making the case to lawmakers for additional funding for weeks, calling it a “very pared down request” and “the bare minimum that we need to get through this fall and winter without large loss of life.”

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.”

“I would say we’re really kind of at that deadline and waiting much longer just puts us further back of the line,” he added. “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.”

Jha, who took over the job of coordinating the federal government’s response to the virus a month ago, called the marking of 1 million American pandemic deaths a “somber” day.

“Every one of those deaths tragic, so many of them preventable,” he said.

While acknowledging that “getting to zero is going to be a challenge,” Jha said most deaths from the virus now are preventable, with vaccinations and boosters, and with effective therapeutics, The challenge is often making sure that they are available to people when they need them.

“We have so many capabilities and we’ve got to deploy them at full speed and at full capacity to make sure that nobody dies from this disease,” he said.

Jha said there is “no viable alternative path” right now than to have the U.S. government take the lead in securing COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, rather than allowing the commercial market deal with procurement as with other medical treatments. He cited the global mismatch between supply and demand.

“We have to have the US government still playing an active role,” he said. “That role will change over time. But right now that’s still critical.”

“One of the things that we’ve been talking to Congress about is these tools are great — but only if you have them, only if you can use them,” Jha said. “And without support from Congress it can be very hard to continue to protect the American people.”

On an international subject, he addressed China’s “zero COVID” policy, which has led to dramatic lockdowns in some of China’s largest cities, disrupting everyday life and contributing to global supply chain issues.

“I don’t think it makes sense,” Jha said. He emphasized that U.S. strategy is “very different,” with a focus on preventing serious illness and death.

“To me, that is a much more sustainable long-form management strategy,” he said. “I think China’s going to find it hard to continue this for the long haul.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A commuter waits in the rain in Sydney, Australia, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022. Sydney notched up its we...
Associated Press

Sydney beats 1950 rainfall record with 3 wet months to spare

SYDNEY (AP) — Australia’s largest city, Sydney, has been soaked by its wettest year on record with almost three months of expected above-average rain to spare. The city of 5 million people beat its 1950 record of 2,194 millimeters (86.4 inches) at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday when 27.2 mm (1.07 in) of rain had fallen […]
24 hours ago
Images are displayed of 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri, left, with her mother Jasleen Kaur, her father Ja...
Associated Press

‘Our worst fears’: Kidnapped baby, parents, uncle found dead

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A baby girl, her parents and uncle were found dead in a central California orchard two days after they were kidnapped at gunpoint from their business, police said. “Our worst fears have been confirmed,” Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said at a Wednesday night news conference. Warnke did not release any […]
24 hours ago
A currency trader walks by the screen showing the foreign exchange rate between U.S. dollar and Sou...
Associated Press

Asian stocks mixed on strong US hiring, OPEC oil output cuts

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stocks were mixed Thursday after strong U.S. hiring dampened hopes the Federal Reserve might ease off plans for interest rate hikes and the OPEC group of oil exporters agreed to output cuts to shore up prices. Tokyo and Seoul advanced while Hong Kong and Sydney declined. Chinese markets were closed for […]
24 hours ago
FILE - The exterior of Phoenix College, part of the Maricopa County Community College system, is se...
Associated Press

Arizona weighing in-state tuition rate for some non-citizens

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona voters this November will decide whether to allow students regardless of their immigration status to obtain financial aid and cheaper in-state tuition at state universities and community colleges. At least 18 states, including California and Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia now offer in-state tuition to all students who […]
24 hours ago
FILE - Actor Kevin Spacey arrives at the Old Bailey in London on July 14, 2022. Spacey heads to cou...
Associated Press

Kevin Spacey faces civil trial on sexual assault claims

NEW YORK (AP) — Kevin Spacey heads to court Thursday to defend himself in a lawsuit filed by Anthony Rapp, the actor who in 2017 made the first in a string of sexual misconduct allegations that left the “House of Cards” star’s theater and filmmaking career in tatters. The trial, expected to last less than […]
24 hours ago
Attorney Norm Pattis looks on during the Alex Jones Sandy Hook defamation damages trial in Waterbur...
Associated Press

Closing arguments set in Alex Jones’ Sandy Hook trial

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut jury is expected to hear closing arguments Thursday in a trial to determine how much Infowars host Alex Jones should pay for persuading his audience that the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax perpetrated to impose more gun control laws. The six-person jury could begin […]
24 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
The AP Interview: US ‘vulnerable’ to COVID without new shots