Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, six former health advisers for U.S. President Joe Biden are urging a different approach to fighting it.
Writing Thursday in The Journal of the American Medical Association, the advisers wrote three articles urging Americans to learn to live with the virus in a “new normal” as opposed to trying to eradicate it.
“Without a strategic plan for the ‘new normal’ with endemic COVID-19, more people in the U.S. will unnecessarily experience morbidity and mortality, health inequities will widen, and trillions will be lost from the U.S. economy,” Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, Michael Osterholm and Dr. Celine Gounder, who served on Biden’s transition COVID-19 advisory board in 2020, wrote in one of the articles.
The former officials called for building a “modern data infrastructure” and more public health workers, including school nurses, among other things.
“Two years into the pandemic, the U.S. is still heavily reliant on data from Israel and the U.K. for assessing the effectiveness and durability of COVID-19 vaccines and rate of vaccine breakthrough infections,” they wrote.
They called for better access to cheap and rapid testing, as well as more monitoring of air and wastewater to get ahead of potential outbreaks.
They also called for vaccine mandates and the development of variant-specific vaccines.
Moreover, they called for a rebuilding of trust in the nation’s public health institutions, calling the initial response to the pandemic “seriously flawed.”
The three officials wrote that rather than living in “a perpetual state of emergency,” the public should live with the virus by reducing peak outbreaks, and they called for “humility” in dealing with a persistent and evolving virus.
In other U.S. pandemic news, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded COVID-19 booster shot eligibility for some adolescents to combat the highly transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus. The move came as the agency faces criticism over messaging confusion on how to cope with infections.
In a statement late Wednesday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky urged young people ages 12 and older to get COVID-19 boosters as soon as they’re eligible. Boosters were previously encouraged for people in the United States who were 16 and older.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the sole option for children in the U.S. The CDC estimates that slightly more than half of 12-to-17-year-olds — 13.5 million people — have received two Pfizer shots. Boosters were first made available to 16- and 17-year-olds in December.
Wednesday’s decision made about 5 million younger adolescents who received their last shots in 2021 immediately eligible for boosters.
“This booster dose will provide optimized protection against COVID-19 and the omicron variant,” Walensky said in the statement. “I encourage all parents to keep their children up to date with CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine recommendations.”
Although children tend to not become as seriously ill from COVID-19 as adults, the omicron variant is fueling hospitalizations among children, most of whom are unvaccinated.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press.