White House’s Covid coordinator urges people to get vaccinated ahead of holidays

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

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

As Covid and flu hospitalizations have climbed in the weeks since Thanksgiving, White House’s Covid-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said families will be safer at upcoming holiday gatherings if they get their updated vaccines.

This year, hospitals are facing the simultaneous threat of Covid, flu and RSV for the first time. Circulation of flu and RSV was 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 circulating widely.

As of Dec. 14, the 7-day average of weekly new Covid cases reached 65,067, a 2.9% decrease from the previous week, according to CDC data.

“The good news here is that we can prevent those infections from turning into serious illness if people go out and get that updated bivalent vaccine,” Jha told ABC’s “This Week” Sunday.

Public health officials have said many people are probably more vulnerable to flu and RSV this year because they weren’t infected in the past two years, which means their immunity is lower. Around 23,503 patients were admitted to the hospital with influenza this week, the CDC reported, while RSV hospitalizations appear to have peaked in some states.

Hospitalizations of people with Covid topped more than 5,000 per day on average, according to the CDC.

“The updated vaccine is essential for keeping people out of the hospital,” Jha said. “So we’re making the case that we’re at a point where it’s safe to gather, but you still have things to do.”

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