The U.S. could soon see Covid-19 cases rise again and vulnerable people are likely to need a fourth vaccine dose, one of President Joe Biden’s top health advisers warned as the White House calls for more money to fight the pandemic.
Anthony Fauci (the long-serving head of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Biden adviser) said U.K. officials had already warned of an increase due to the BA.2 subvariant. This means that there are fewer restrictions and less protection from vaccinations. The U.S. is often a week behind the U.K. case curves.
“We have all three of those factors right now in this country,” Fauci said in an interview Thursday. “I would predict that we are going to see a bit of an increase, or at least a flattening out and plateauing of the diminution of cases. And the question is how do we deal with that.”
The number of U.S. deaths has fallen steadily since January records were established. Biden is encouraging Americans to return to a more normal lifestyle and to ease restrictions. However, the Obama administration calls for Congress to provide funding to address a potential new crisis. It also urges Congress to continue to fund certain programs and purchase vaccines and treatment.
Fauci stated that funding is essential to fund clinical trials for booster shots as well as work towards developing pan-coronavirus vaccinations. The White House has sought $22.5 billion in funding, warning that it will soon have to wind down programs and can’t buy more therapeutic treatments.
Without new funding, “a lot of things are going to stop. It really will be a very serious situation,” Fauci said. “It just is almost unconscionable.”
‘A Transition Stage’
Fauci spoke Thursday to House Democrats during the weekly Democratic Whip meeting, at the invitation of Whip Jim Clyburn, outlining the administration’s needs.
According to officials, the U.S. does not have enough shot orders to supply all Americans with another dose. Fauci said that the data aren’t entirely clear, but that protection against hospitalization appears to wane after four or five months after a third shot, and would be expected to fall further.
“I would project that sooner or later, we will need a fourth,” though perhaps only for the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions, at least at first, Fauci said.
Both the cash crunch and Fauci’s warnings come as Biden’s White House Covid team prepares for a change in leadership. Ashish Jha (dean of Brown School of Public Health) will take over the roles of response coordinator Jeff Zients as well as his deputy Natalie Quillian. Fauci gave praise to them all, though he cautioned the decline in cases as a positive sign but it’s not likely to last.
“It’s really in a transition stage. We are obviously going in the right direction,” Fauci said. “We have to be really careful and not declare total victory prematurely. I do believe we will be able to settle into a degree of normality.”
Tweets by Jha on Thursday predicted that the number of cases would rise and other variants might emerge. “We are very likely to see more surges of infections,” he said.
Fauci indicated that the U.S. would need to be flexible. They might even reconsider recommending mask use in some settings.
“We’d better be careful, because history has taught us that what’s gone on in the U.K. generally happens to us three or four weeks later,” he said.
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