Citing the fast-spreading omicron BA.5 coronavirus subvariant that now makes up a majority of U.S. cases, the White House on Tuesday said it will ensure the availability of COVID-19 vaccines, boosters, treatments and testing to combat the disease.
“Currently, many Americans are under-vaccinated, meaning they are not up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at a news briefing Tuesday. “Staying up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines provides the best protection against severe outcomes.”
The subvariant, which the CDC says accounts for 65% of the variants circulating in the United States as of last week, reportedly could spread more easily despite vaccination or natural immunity.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, speaking at the same briefing, said the subvariant does not cause a more severe illness or hospitalizations compared to other subvariants.
“Variants will continue to emerge. The virus circulates globally and in this country. We should not let it disrupt our lives, but we cannot deny that it is a reality that we need to deal with,” Fauci said.
The White House says it will focus on boosters, at-home testing, making good masks available and supporting people who are immunocompromised.
“We can prevent serious illness; we can keep people out of the hospital and especially out of the ICU. We can save lives, and we can minimize the disruptions caused by COVID-19. Even in the face of BA.5, the tools we have continue to work,” said Ashish Jha, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator.
“We are at a point in the pandemic where most COVID-19 deaths are preventable,” he said.
Some information in this report comes from The Associated Press and Reuters.