COVID is spiking and Biden White House is asleep once again
Joe Biden’s presidency has been a catastrophe. What else can go wrong?
How about a resurgence of COVID-19, for which the White House appears totally unprepared? And, the public deciding that Biden has bungled the government’s response to the pandemic — the one arena in which Biden’s approval ratings are above water.
Remember the “fourth shot”? You know — the extra shot that supposedly extends the protections you got against COVID-19 from the initial vaccines and the first booster? If you ask your doctor, as I did, you may very well be told not to bother with that extra booster.
Why? Because the shots available today were developed to fight the early rounds of COVID-19. Now that we’re several variants removed from the original virus that showed up over two years ago, that vaccine is fast losing effectiveness.
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Omicron BA.5 is the new threat, one that some consider “the most dangerous yet” as it is not only highly contagious but also adept at evading antibodies gained from earlier infections or vaccines. A recent study shows that repeated COVID infections may take an ever-greater toll. The fact that people can catch omicron BA.5 and quickly become reinfected is ominous.
A new variant of COVID-19 has the virus on the rise again.
Equally ominous is that the “fourth shot” appears to provide little protection from omicron BA.5, which is fast becoming dominant.
That’s probably why uptake for the second booster has been modest; people know it doesn’t prevent infection. You don’t have to be an epidemiologist to reach that conclusion. People everywhere are getting sick again — including just recently Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who has been vaccinated and “double boosted.”
What should the government be doing? Just as President Donald Trump created Operation Warp Speed, using all the resources of the federal government to create a vaccine against COVID-19, Biden should be pressing our health agencies to quickly manufacture a new, updated shot.
That is not happening.
Instead, just as with protecting our border, making our streets safe or fighting inflation, the White House is inert and most definitely behind the curve.
Cases are rising and hospitalizations are the highest they have been since early March. Some speculate that the real case count is significantly above the figures being reported, especially because home testing is now so widely available. People are wary of reporting an infection, knowing they’ll have to endure tiresome and costly quarantines. One study showed reported cases in New York City undercounted actual infections by a factor of 30.
Thankfully, the death count remains stable, and low — a credit to the success of the original vaccine. However, the disruptions in people’s lives and to businesses from recurring COVID infections is substantial. If, as expected, we see another jump in cases this fall, and health authorities mandate renewed masking or limits on gatherings, the public will be deeply unhappy. Already, in New York City, where the positivity rate is above 9%, the Department of Health is recommending masking indoors or in crowded areas.
As infections rise across the U.S. and highly contagious omicron sub-variants become dominant, the FDA is ponderously considering whether to tweak the vaccine. The FDA Advisory Panel of independent experts just recently concluded a new shot was essential, citing “the steady erosion of immune protection” from existing vaccines, as one participant described it.
A driver places a swab into a vial at a free drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in the parking lot of the Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pennsylvania, Jan. 20, 2022.
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
The newly designed vaccine should be rolled out this fall and winter, the panel advised, as people again gather indoors and immunities wane.
But — bad news. The panel did not decide what the vaccine should actually look like. They appeared, according to The New York Times, to favor a combination of the original COVID vaccine and a formula that would target omicron BA.4 and BA.5. In effect, when it came to making the tough choices, they punted.
It will take several months to design the new vaccine, and several more to produce it. Those involved in the discussions say that as soon as the new shots are ready, they may be obsolete.
Meanwhile, the companies best situated to actually make the new vaccine — Pfizer and Moderna — have been manufacturing a version attacking COVID and omicron, but not the sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5. That was what they expected the government to order; now that product may well go to waste.
Americans should ask: where have our health officials been? For months, it has been obvious that the efficacy of the original vaccines is dropping precipitously. It has also been obvious that we are not done with the pandemic.
It has been assumed that each variant will be milder, but some are reporting that omicron BA.5 can actually be worse than earlier versions for those of us who have been vaccinated and boosted. That was my experience; I know others in the same boat.
The Times cited projections from Justin T. Lessler, an epidemiologist with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, showing anticipated deaths in the 12-month period ending March 2023 ranging from 95,000 to over 200,000. Currently, the average death toll is around 350-400 per day.
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Meanwhile, the Biden administration has just recently allowed pharmacists to prescribe Paxlovid, a medication that, taken soon after contracting COVID, helps provide a quick cure. The government had ordered 20 million courses of the drug, but made it almost impossible to acquire. New government moves should make it easier to get and cut down on “health inequities.” Now at least that blunder may be resolved.
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Given the stumbling progress of the Biden White House on COVID, and the alarming prevalence of the fast-changing omicron variants, the pandemic could delay getting people back in the office, derail the recovery in the travel industry, and once again prevent children from going to school. This would be a disaster.
Voters may realize anew how extraordinary Operation Warp Speed was in creating vaccines in record time. President Trump did that. Can Joe Biden follow suit?
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