AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins moderated a virtual COVID-19 White House event Dec. 9 with two of the nation’s foremost experts on the virus — Ashish Jha, the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response coordinator, and Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser.
The message to the American people was simple: As the holidays approach, make sure you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines.
“Nearly three years into the pandemic, we’re all sick of sickness,” Jenkins said. “As much as we want the pandemic to be over, we also know that as we head into the winter holiday season, it’s especially important to do what is necessary to stay safe and healthy.”
Jenkins introduced first lady Jill Biden who made brief remarks, stressing the need for vaccination with the latest booster that targets the omicron variant as well as the original strain of the coronavirus. (It’s known as a bivalent booster.) “If you get it now, you’ll be protected in time for winter holiday gatherings,” Biden said. “This updated vaccine offers the best protection for you and your family against the version of the virus we're facing today.”
Why take the latest shot?
The questions for the two experts were kicked off by AARP member and retired physician Inday Williams of Washington, who said she is often asked why, if someone already has been vaccinated and boosted, they need the latest shot?
“One is that this virus has continued to evolve over the last two years,” Jha said, and the version circulating is very different from the strain that the original vaccines targeted.
Jha pointed out that immunity can wane over time. “This is why people need an annual flu shot because the virus changes and your immunity changes. Getting that updated bivalent vaccine is the single most important thing you can do to make sure your immunity is up to date.”
Fauci, outgoing director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, explained that for other illnesses, such as measles or polio, one vaccine will last years, even decades, but unfortunately, that’s not the case with COVID-19. “We’ve got to keep up with that virus and keep up with the waning immunity,” he said.
Jenkins relayed a question from an AARP member who asked how soon after getting COVID should they get another booster. Jha suggested three months. “Getting another vaccine on top (of being infected) really builds up your protection, especially right now with so much virus circulating out there.”