As post-Thanksgiving COVID hospitalizations spike, Dr. Jha urges people to get new booster

The White House’s COVID-19 coordinator on Sunday said a sharp increase in cases and hospitalizations since Thanksgiving wasn’t a surprise — and he reiterated that holiday gatherings would be safer if people received their updated vaccines.

“The good news here is that we can prevent those infections from turning into serious illness if people go out and get that updated bivalent vaccine,” Dr. Ashish Jha told ABC “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz of the 40%-plus rise in COVID-19 numbers. “The updated vaccine is essential for keeping people out of the hospital. So we’re making the case that we’re at a point where it’s safe to gather, but you still have things to do.”

Raddatz cited a statistic from Jha that less than half of nursing home residents had gotten their updated booster despite being in a high-risk group. “Why hasn’t this been happening?” she asked.

“A lot of people are confused about whether they need one or not,” Jha said. “We’re being very clear about this: If you’ve not gotten a vaccine in the last six months, it is essential to go out and get the new updated bivalent.”

Jha was also pressed by Raddatz on the low uptake of the latest booster shot so far, as well as low mask use in many parts of the country. “How can you say that is really working?” she asked.

Jha said the testing, treatment and vaccine strategy needs to be implemented at many levels of society beyond the federal government — with help from governors and mayors, religious leaders and more — focusing on older people most at risk.

“If we’re going to get a country as big and diverse as ours through this difficult period, we’re all going to have to pull on this,” he said.

Separately, Raddatz asked Jha about anecdotal reports of shortages for children’s medicine like amoxicillin.

Jha said that while manufacturing and supply is “good,” the demand “is unprecedented” in some areas given circulating viruses — COVID-19 as well as the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). That was causing “spot outages,” Jha said.

This is a developing story. Please return for updates.