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BA.5: White House urges caution on COVID-19 variants, pushes vaccine boosters

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is urging people to exercise renewed caution about COVID-19, stressing the importance of getting booster shots for those eligible and wearing masks indoors as two new highly contagious strains spread rapidly across the country .

The new variants, labeled BA.4 and BA.5, are offshoots of the omicron strain responsible for nearly all of the virus’ spread in the US and are even more contagious than their predecessors. White House doctors stressed the importance of getting booster doses, even if you’ve recently been infected.

“Right now, many Americans are under-vaccinated, which means they are not up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccines,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Being informed about your COVID-19 vaccines provides the best protection against serious outcomes.”

Walensky said the U.S. has doubled the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 since April, reflecting the spread of new subvariants, although deaths are holding steady at around 300 a day.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said that while the new variants involve boosters, indoor masking and treatments, the country has the tools to prevent them from wreaking havoc.

“We shouldn’t let it disrupt our lives,” he said, “but we can’t deny that it’s a reality we have to face.”

He added that even if someone has recently had COVID-19, they should get a booster.

“Immunity is waning, so it’s important to stay up-to-date with COVID 19 vaccines,” he said.

All Americans age 5 and older should get a booster five months after their initial series, according to the CDC, and those age 50 and older — or immunocompromised — should get a second booster four months after the first. their. According to the CDC, tens of millions of eligible Americans have not received their first booster, and of those over 50 who have received their first booster, only 28% have received a second booster.

“If you’re over 50 and haven’t gotten the shot this year, you should go get a shot,” said White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha. “It will save your life.”

Jha and Fauci said the US regularly discusses expanding eligibility for a second booster shot to all adults, but that no decision has been made yet.

“It’s a regulatory decision on the FDA’s part,” Fauci said.

Jha pressed said people who are eligible for a booster but haven’t received it should not wait for upcoming vaccines that target the micron strain other than the original form of the coronavirus. The US has ordered 105 million of those updated shots that studies show offer better protection against micron variants, but they won’t be available until the fall.

“Let me be clear, if you get vaccinated today, you will not be ineligible to get that particular variant vaccine as we get into the later part of fall and winter,” Jha said. “Well, that’s no trade-off, we’ve got plenty. It’s a great way to protect yourself.”

Fauci added: “The threat to you is now.”

Walensky noted that CDC data shows that about a third of Americans live in areas the agency classifies as experiencing a high level of spread of COVID, where the agency recommends people wear masks in public indoor spaces. Another 41% live in the CDC’s “medium” level, where it recommends people consider their individual risk and consider coverage.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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BA.5: White House urges caution on COVID-19 variants, pushes vaccine boosters Source link BA.5: White House urges caution on COVID-19 variants, pushes vaccine boosters

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