With a third of the nation now living in areas with moderate to high COVID-19 transmission, White House officials are warning of stalling progress on access to vaccines, treatments and testing without congressional funding.
Developers are already planning potential vaccines for the fall, but the U.S. government has yet to begin negotiations to secure supplies, said the incoming White House COVID response coordinator, Ashish Jha, MD. “Without additional funding from Congress, we won’t be able to buy enough vaccines for every American who wants one.”
During the fall and winter, “Americans can look around and see their friends in other countries in Europe and Canada with access to these treatments that Americans won’t have,” he warned.
Despite the government’s efforts to stabilize the test supply, some test manufacturers are already starting to lay off workers, he said.
“We will see them sell their devices and get out of this business,” Jha said, meaning they will have to rely on foreign manufacturers in the future.
“All of this is incredibly preventable,” he said, noting that he worked with members of Congress on Wednesday morning to persuade them of the need to act. Jha said he is “very, very confident” they will step in and support the White House’s $22.5 billion additional COVID-aid request.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, focused on the need for more older adults to get booster shots. In the 50-64 age groups, about 62% have not received a COVID vaccine in the past 6 months; 57% of those over 65 had not been vaccinated in the same period, she said.
“Whether it’s your first booster shot or your second, if you haven’t had a dose of vaccine since early December 2021 and are eligible, now is the time to get one,” she said, as that extra dose can help to increase protection against infection, urgent care visits, “and especially hospitalizations and deaths”.
When asked whether people under the age of 50 are eligible for a booster shot, Walensky noted that any change in eligibility would require FDA action, “and we’re in talks there.”
Regarding COVID treatment, Jha noted that because nirmatrelvir/ritonavir (Paxlovid) was initially scarce, some doctors are stuck in a “scarcity mindset,” but the resource is now more readily available. Jha stated, “Under normal circumstances, it would take years to get physicians to fundamentally change their practice patterns, but we don’t have years for that.” As a result, the White House has made significant efforts to help healthcare providers improve the approval criteria for these therapeutics understand, and emphasizes that “the care is adequate,” he said.
Over the past month, nirmatrelvir/ritonavir use has quadrupled, with current prescriptions at 20,000 a day, after the White House allowed pharmacies to order treatment directly and expanded test-to-treat sites, said yeah
When asked about cases of COVID rebound after nirmatrelvir/ritonavir and whether the course of treatment should be extended, Anthony Fauci, MD, chief medical adviser to President Biden, said the NIH and developer Pfizer are currently discussing which new trials to conduct and will meet “in the next few days”.
state of the pandemic
Walensky said COVID cases are averaging about 94,000 per day based on weekly averages, with about 3,000 hospital admissions and 275 deaths per day. Cases are up about 26% from the previous week and hospitalizations are up 19% from the previous week, she said.
Walensky added that while the daily death toll is low, “nearly 300 deaths a day is still far too many.”
She noted that case numbers have risen in some communities in the Northeast and upper Midwest, and that more than 32% of Americans currently live in a part of the country labeled as high or moderate COVID-19, which is 8% more than in the previous week.
For those in communities classified as “high,” local leaders must “encourage the use of prevention strategies such as masking in indoor public spaces and increased access to testing and treatment for individuals,” she stressed.