White Home Covid coordinator urges individuals to get vaccinated forward of the vacations

Ashish Jha, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator at the White House in Washington, Oct. 25, 2022.

Jonathan Ernest | Reuters

As Covid and flu hospitalizations have increased in the weeks since Thanksgiving, White House Covid-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha that families will be safer at upcoming holiday gatherings when they receive their updated vaccines.

Hospitals are facing the simultaneous threat of Covid, flu and RSV for the first time this year. The spread of influenza and RSV has been very low during the pandemic due to widespread masking and social distancing implemented in response to Covid, but as most people return to normal life, all three viruses are widespread.

On Dec. 14, the 7-day moving average of weekly new Covid cases reached 65,067, down 2.9% from the previous week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The good news here is that if people go out and get this updated bivalent vaccine, we can prevent these infections from becoming a serious disease,” Jha told ABC’s This Week on Sunday.

Public health officials have said many people are likely more susceptible to the flu and RSV this year because they haven’t contracted it in the past two years, meaning their immunity is lower. About 23,503 patients were hospitalized with influenza this week, the CDC reported, while RSV hospitalizations appear to have peaked in some states.

Hospitalizations for people with Covid averaged more than 5,000 a day, according to the CDC.

Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said it’s going to be a “difficult few weeks” and he told CBS News’ Face the Nation on Sunday that this year’s respiratory pathogen season was the “worst in recent memory.”

Gottlieb said it was a historic year, especially for the flu.

“80% of hospital beds are currently full. Hospitals haven’t been this crowded since the peak of the Omicron wave last winter,” he said. “The difference is that last winter 25% of those hospital beds were occupied by Covid admissions. At the moment only 6% are occupied with Covid admissions.”

Even though it’s safe to gather in groups this year, Jha said staying up to date on vaccines will be important to keep people away from the hospital.

“I got my flu shot last year. I don’t expect that to protect me this winter,” he said. “I go out and get the flu shot every winter, just like people have to go out and get their Covid shot.”

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