Health and Wellness

Dr. Jha: The U.S. is ready to 'move on' from Covid—but only if people 'keep their immunity up to date'

White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha speaks during the daily briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on July 22, 2022.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

The U.S. is getting closer than ever to finally putting Covid in the rearview mirror, according to Dr. Ashish Jha.

That's as long as Americans everywhere take one simple action: staying up-to-date on your vaccines.

"It's been, obviously, a long two and a half years for Americans, and we understand that people want to move on," Jha, the White House's Covid response coordinator, said Sunday in an interview with ABC News. "The good news is: People can move on if they keep their immunity up to date."

Currently, that means a primary series of Covid vaccines followed by a booster shot with an omicron component, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Those shots give you a hefty amount of protection against the virus. The omicron booster shot provides a particularly strong immune response against omicron subvariants like BA.4 and BA.5, recent data from Pfizer and BioNTech shows.

Yet less than 69% of Americans have completed their primary vaccine series as of November 24, according to CDC data — a figure that lags significantly behind countries like Canada, Australia and multiple major European countries.

Only 12.1% of Americans have been immunized with the new booster, the CDC data adds. But Jha hopes that figure will rise in the coming weeks, as more people get flu shots and potentially knock out both vaccines simultaneously.

"Historically, people tend to get their flu shot in November and December and to January," he said.

Defeating the 'tripledemic' could play a large role

Currently, Covid, the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), are spreading throughout the U.S., which some public health experts have deemed a "tripledemic."

That makes getting your Covid and flu shots all the more important: Doing so can significantly decrease your chances of "causing serious illness" from the two most-concerning of the three viruses, Jha said.

The third virus, RSV, is typically mild for most people — though it can be more serious for children and people over 65 years old, Jha said. He encouraged all Americans to avoid others who are sick, wash their hands often and sanitize surfaces.

"We think it's incredibly important as we head into the holidays for people to update their immunity, get the new Covid vaccine, get the flu shot. It's a great way to stay safe and healthy this holiday season," Jha added.

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