Almost zero risk of death from Covid for people who are boosted and treated, says White House Covid czar

People who stay up to date on their vaccines and receive treatment when they have breakthrough infections are at almost no risk of dying from Covid-19, a top health official said on Tuesday.

Dr Ashish Jha, head of the White House Covid task force, said the United States had made major progress in the fight against Covid since the early days of the pandemic, when thousands of people were dying from the virus daily. .

“If you are up to date with your vaccines and are being treated if you have a breakthrough infection, your risk of dying from Covid is now close to zero,” Jha told reporters at the White House.

More than 300 people still die each day from Covid on average, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Jha told reporters last week that 70% of people who die from the virus are 75 and older and don’t have the latest vaccines or aren’t being treated as needed. He said this level of mortality is unacceptable given all the tools the United States now has to manage the virus.

Jha encouraged people who show symptoms of Covid to get tested so they can be diagnosed and given treatments such as the antiviral pill Paxlovid when needed.

“The treatments that we have now for free are keeping people from going to hospital, keeping people from going to intensive care, preventing the worst outcomes at all,” Jha said.

People over 50 and those otherwise at high risk, such as people with weakened immune systems or serious medical conditions, should be seriously considered for treatments, he said.

The United States rolled out new boosters targeting the dominant omicron BA.5 subvariant in September. Although there is no real data on their effectiveness yet, Jha said they should provide a much higher degree of protection based on what scientists know about how the human immune system works.

Health officials expect Covid infections to increase from November to January, like every fall and winter since the pandemic began, Jha said. But it’s hard to predict whether the US will face another major Covid surge as the virus continues to evolve, he added.

“We are not powerless in the face of these challenges. What happens in the weeks and months to come will have a big impact on how winter plays out and what happens this winter is very much up to us as American people,” Jha said Tuesday.

He called on all people aged 12 and over to get vaccinated against the novel Covid by Halloween so they are protected in time for Thanksgiving when the holiday season is in full swing. All eligible people should also go out and get their annual flu shot, as health officials expect a major flu season for the first time since the pandemic began, he said.

One caveat is that people who recently caught Covid can wait three months to get their booster because the infection also boosts your immunity, Jha said.

“Don’t wait – get your flu shot and your new Covid shot today,” Jha said. “If Americans did this, we could save hundreds of lives every day this winter.”

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