The White House COVID-19 Response Team on Tuesday held a briefing to mark what health officials called a “major milestone,” referring to the rapid authorization of new COVID-19 bivalent booster shots for Americans ages 12 and older.
Commenting on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Aug. 31 amended Emergency Use Authorizations for new the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines, Dr. Ashish Jha, Biden’s COVID-19 response coordinator, said:
“We expect millions will choose to get their [updated bivalent] COVID-19 shot at the same time or over the course of the fall when people go in for routine checkups.
“The good news is you can get both your flu shot and COVID shot at the same time. It’s actually a good idea.
“I really believe this is why God gave us two arms. One for the flu shot and the other one for the COVID shot.”
Jha’s comments trended on Twitter.
NOW – Biden COVID advisor Ashish Jha believes "God gave us two arms — one for the flu shot and the other one for the COVID shot."pic.twitter.com/Wpcxyo1nfM
— Disclose.tv (@disclosetv) September 6, 2022
The new vaccines, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended on Sept. 1, contain sequences from both the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and the most recently circulating Omicron variant.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who also appeared during the briefing, said, “My message to you is simple. Get your updated COVID-19 shot. As soon as you are eligible in order to protect yourself, your family and your community against COVID-19 this fall.”
Fauci said the new bivalent vaccines are safe and effective.
“Through robust safety monitoring systems, we now have an extensive body of safety data as good or better than what we have for any prior vaccine,” Fauci said.
However, Dr. Meryl Nass, an internist and biological warfare epidemiologist, earlier this week questioned the new vaccines’ safety.
“The [vaccine] manufacturers did not have to go through months-long trials, and the FDA did not have to pore over any human trial data, because there weren’t any,” Nass wrote.
“Let that sink in: The new BA.4/5 bivalent vaccines were tested only in mice, not humans. …
“So there is no reason to think the boosters will be any safer than the second dose, in terms of myocarditis. That risk, by the way, was about 1 in 2,000 young men aged 18-24 after their second dose in one Kaiser study.
“Getting vaccinated soon after recovering from COVID-19 is foolhardy, and any officials mandating the shots after recovery are putting people at even greater risk of adverse reactions, including myocarditis.”
Fauci pointed to data from mRNA vaccine efficacy trials in 2020, claiming they showed a “remarkable 94-95% efficacy against symptomatic disease” — claims that have since been challenged.
Data from Moderna and Pfizer, Fauci said, indicated the updated bivalent vaccines “induced higher antibody titers against Omicron than did the original vaccines” as well as against “all CoV-2 variants.”
Although Fauci did not provide specific figures, he also said Pfizer and Moderna’s data showed the bivalent vaccines induced “even higher levels of neutralizing antibodies in individuals who had recovered from COVID-19.”
Based on these data, Fauci said, “We fully expect that the updated bivalent vaccines containing BA.4 and BA.5 sequences will offer better protection against currently circulating strains than the original vaccines.”
Fauci admitted, however, that “it is difficult to predict at this point how much better that protection will be.”
On the same day as the briefing on the new boosters, Biden issued a press statement urging Americans to get vaccinated against both the flu and COVID-19.
“Just like your annual flu shot, you should get it [the new bivalent vaccine] sometime between Labor Day and Halloween. It’s safe, it’s easy to get, and it’s free,” he said.
“It’s simple, and it’s easy to understand: If you are vaccinated and 12 and older, get the new COVID-19 shot this fall. This once-a-year shot can reduce your risk of getting COVID-19, reduce your chance of spreading it to others, and dramatically reduce your risk of severe COVID-19.”
The statement did not cite evidence supporting Biden’s claims.
Also on Tuesday, the American Academy of Pediatrics urged parents to get flu vaccines for their children as soon as possible.
The CDC recommends the flu vaccine for children 6 months and older “with rare exceptions.”
But Dr. Michelle Perro, a pediatrician with four decades of experience, questioned the CDC’s recommendation.
“While the flu can be a more serious illness than COVID-19,” she told The Defender, “hospitalizations are low, ranging from 7,000-26,000 in the 2019-2020 season.”
“Some children may die from the flu, however, this is extremely rare. Vaccine efficacy in one report was 32.5% for flu vaccines, which does not exceed the desired vaccine efficacy threshold of 50%.
“What is often lacking in the conversation is how we support and optimize our children’s overall health/immune function via nutrition, targeted supplements during flu season, such as vitamins C and D, as well as the use of gentle, but natural solutions such as herbal medicine and homeopathy.”
The major consideration when it comes to requiring vaccines for children is the risk-benefit ratio, Perro said — whether it’s the flu vaccine or the COVID-19 vaccines.
“Since the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in children,” Perro said, “the risk from harm from the vaccine has been shown to be profoundly greater than the risk of illness from the virus.”
Perro cited reports of serious side effects in children, including heart issues (myocarditis), changes in autonomic nervous system function (postural orthostatic tachycardia, or POTS), autoimmunity and neurologic disorders, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome.
“It is important to note that historically, with the introduction of previous novel vaccines such as the rotavirus vaccine, they were recalled after only eight incidents of harm,” Perro said.
“Children should not receive this experimental genetic immunomodulatory vaccine, especially in light of the fact that their risk of serious illness from COVID-19 is less than .5%,” she said.
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