Virus ‘trifecta’ fears spur vaccine push ahead of holidays

Health officials pleaded with people to get vaccinated against COVID and influenza Tuesday ahead of a holiday season they fear could see hospitals overwhelmed with a trio of respiratory viruses hitting all at once.

In Santa Clara County, officials said hospitals already are starting to fill with patients with Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV, an unusually early hitting and potent influenza virus that is especially dangerous in the very young and very old, and ever-shifting variants of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“We’re facing the trifecta this year,” Santa Clara County Executive Jeffrey Smith said outside of Valley Medical Center in San Jose. “We really have a major problem with having COVID and the flu and RSV hitting us all at the same time.”

Nationally, White House officials announced a push for the new COVID-19 vaccine that has been updated to protect against two of this year’s dominant omicron variants, known as BA.4 and BA.5. So far, about 35.3 million eligible Americans ages 5 and older have had the updated COVID booster, and White House officials said there has been steady uptake. But that figure still is only 11.3% of those eligible.

Moreover, though 68% of all Americans have had at least the primary vaccine, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief White House medical advisor, said that means 32% remain unvaccinated. Those people are most at risk of severe illness or death from the virus.

“If you look at the data, they are just profoundly striking in the curves of death and hospitalization of unvaccinated vs. vaccinated (compared to) vaccinated and boosted,” Fauci, who is retiring, said Tuesday at what was expected to be his last COVID-19 briefing. “The real danger is in the people who have not been vaccinated. So if we’re going to see a problem this winter, it’s going to be among those people.”

Fauci said new data published Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demonstrate the effectiveness of the updated COVID boosters in preventing severe illnesses and deaths.

Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said Tuesday that the administration is making a six-week push to promote COVID vaccination to head off a possible surge of cases like those that walloped the country over the past two years. A dozen leading medical associations have joined in a statement urging people to get both their influenza and COVID vaccines.

“They know the best way to save lives this holiday season is to ensure all Americans, particularly seniors, get their updated COVID vaccine and their flu vaccine,” Jha said.

The effort will include $350 million in funding to help community health centers “meet people where they are, with facts, with vaccines,” plus an additional $125 million to help local aging and disability networks get older and more vulnerable and disabled Americans vaccinated. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services also is reminding nursing homes they are required to educate their residents on the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines and to offer the shots.

“Nursing homes that don’t do these very basic things are going to …read more

Source:: The Mercury News


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