WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – It’s been more than a month now since the newest COVID-19 booster shot rolled out, but most people haven’t gotten it. With winter coming soon, federal leaders are making a push to change that.
Less than 5% of eligible Americans have received the latest COVID booster shot, according to numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The White House hopes to see a fall surge in vaccinations.
“We really want to rev up the urgency. This is going to be a critical piece of protection as we enter the winter months,” White House assistant press secretary Kevin Munoz said.
White House COVID Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha says according to a new study, if most Americans do get boosted before winter, it could save as many as 90,000 lives.
“What happens in the weeks and months ahead will have a large impact on how the winter goes,” Jha said.
Some health experts partially blame the low booster rate on mixed messages. Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, says the communication about the booster has been inconsistent.
“People were kinda muddled in their messaging on who needs a booster, who benefits from a booster, what a booster is used for. That has led to a lack of enthusiasm,” Adalja said.
He thinks federal leaders need to specifically target their push to seniors and other high-risk people.
“When you look who is dying, the 300 to 500 people who die every day, they are high-risk individuals,” Adalja said. “Almost all of them are elderly and a lot of them have never been boosted.”
Dr. Jha argues that Congress’s failure to approve more coronavirus funding has limited their vaccine campaign.
“Congressional inaction has put the health and well-being of American people at risk,” Jha said.
Still, the White House says leaders found a way to make sure the booster is free and accessible. Now they just have to convince more people to get it.
“If you want to stay safe and healthy this fall and winter, the best thing you can do is get vaccinated,” Jha said.
Dr. Jha recommends getting the booster shot by Halloween so that your body builds up full immunity before Thanksgiving gatherings.