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

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 said families will be safer at upcoming holiday gatherings when they receive their updated vaccines.

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

As of Dec. January, the 7-day moving average of weekly new Covid cases hit 65,067, down 2.9% from the previous week, according to CDC data.

“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 illness,” 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.

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

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