White House renews COVID-19 vaccination push: 3 updates

The White House aims to reinvigorate national COVID-19 vaccination efforts through a six-week campaign announced Nov. 22. 

The vaccination campaign will focus on seniors, communities hit hardest by COVID-19 and those living in rural areas. The White House has also allocated $350 million for community health centers and $125 million for community-based organizations to help increase the pace of vaccinations. 

The White House is also tapping the healthcare workforce to encourage vaccinations for older Americans. On Nov. 21, a group of the nation's leading medical societies — including the American Medical Association and American Academy of Family Physicians — encouraged members "to use every interaction with patients as an opportunity to make strong vaccine recommendations."  

Vaccination efforts have lagged nationwide since updated boosters were made available in September. Only 11.3 percent of people ages 5 and up have received the omicron-tweaked booster, according to CDC estimates

Three more updates on COVID-19 vaccines: 

1. New bivalent boosters are effective at preventing severe COVID-19 and offer a modest increase in protection compared to past monovalent boosters, according to the first real-world data available on the shot's efficacy, which the CDC published Nov. 22. Protection from the bivalent doses — which contain genetic material from the original coronavirus strain and BA.4/BA.5 — also increased with time due to waning immunity of the original monovalent doses, the CDC said. 

2. Anthony Fauci, MD, urged Americans to get vaccinated during his final White House COVID-19 briefing Nov. 22. He is slated to leave his role as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in December. 

"So, my message and my final message — may be the final message I give you from this podium — is that: Please, for your own safety, for that of your family, get your updated COVID-19 shot as soon as you're eligible to protect yourself, your family, and your community," he said. 

3. Updated boosters will offer "some protection, but not the optimal protection" against omicron subvariants BQ.1.1 and XBB, according to Dr. Fauci. Despite the spread of these subvariants, which are capable of evading immunity from vaccines, Dr. Fauci said he does not anticipate a winter surge of the same magnitude as last year's.

"We're hoping that [with] a combination of people who've been infected and boosted and vaccinated, or people who've been vaccinated and boosted and not infected, that there's enough community protection that we're not going to see a repeat of what we saw last year at this time," he said.

 

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