The White House on Tuesday said that without additional congressional funding for up-to-date Covid treatments, immunocompromised individuals could potentially be at greater risk for severe disease due to emerging subvariants of the highly transmissible Omicron strain.
“Lack of congressional funding has made it difficult for us to replenish our medicine cabinet. Because of a lack of congressional funding, the medicine cabinet has actually shrunk, and that does put vulnerable people at risk,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, per The Hill.
“With some of the new subvariants emerging, some of the main tools we’ve had to protect the immunocompromised, like Evusheld, may not work moving forward. That’s a huge challenge,” he added.
Evusheld is an “investigational medicine used in adults and adolescents (12 years of age and older) who weigh at least 88 pounds for pre-exposure prophylaxis for prevention of COVID-19,” according to the corporate website of the drug.
Earlier on Tuesday, President Joe Biden expressed similar sentiments while receiving his updated booster shot.
“New variants may make some existing protections ineffective for the immunocompromised. Sadly, this means you may be at a special risk this winter,” the president said.
“So, I urge you—I urge you to consult with your doctor on the right steps to protect yourself. Take extra precautions,” he continued.
Meanwhile, ABC News reported on Wednesday that the United States may have to confront the threat of a “tripledemic”—a situation in which the flu, Covid, and pediatric respiratory viruses, particularly respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), spread simultaneously.
Experts are contending that a combination of waning Covid immunity and lack of exposure to other viruses due to masking and social distancing over the past two-plus years is fueling a “perfect storm.”
“Mostly the issue is there's low population immunity and kids are, once again, gathered again, and this is facilitating rapid spread of viruses like RSV,” Dr. John Brownstein, an epidemiologist and chief innovation officer at Boston Children's Hospital, told the news outlet.
“And because of the sheer volume of infection, when you have that larger denominator, you have a situation where a portion of those kids are going to require hospital treatment. And because of that, our hospitals are spread thin, not only for bed capacity, but also for critical staffing, of those beds. So the combination of shortages, bed capacity and rising viral illness all make for an unfortunate perfect storm that we're seeing happen everywhere right now,” he added.
Dr. Larry Kociolek, medical director of Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago, told ABC News “that just leaves a lot of children, young children in particular, that have been born since March of 2020 who haven't yet encountered RSV infections.”
“And so that will increase the ability of the virus to spread and increase the number of children who will get infected,” he concluded.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Finance and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.