White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022. Photo by AP Photo/Susan Walsh

The White House said on Tuesday that eligible Americans should get updated COVID-19 boosters by Halloween to have maximum protection from the coronavirus by Thanksgiving and the holidays, as it warned of a “challenging” virus season.

Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s COVID-19 coordinator, said the U.S. has the tools, both vaccines and treatments, to largely eliminate serious illness and death from the virus, but stressed that this is only happening in the case when people fulfill their role.

“We are not helpless in the face of these challenges,” he said. “What happens this winter is up to us.”

So far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says only about 11.5 million Americans have received the updated vaccinations, which are supposed to provide increased protection against both the original strain of COVID-19 and the BA.5 variant that dominates the world. the world Jha said research shows that if more Americans get the updated vaccines, “we could save hundreds of lives every day this winter.”

According to the CDC, on average, more than 330 people die each day from COVID-19, and the death toll in the U.S. is more than 1.05 million.

Jha acknowledged the slower pace of vaccinations, saying: “We were expecting September to be a month where it would just start picking up.” He added that the White House expects more Americans to get their updated boosters this month around the time they get their annual flu shots. He also emphasized that they should strive to ensure that they are protected when they gather with family and friends.

“I think people should get vaccinated before Halloween,” he said.

Jha criticized Congress for denying the White House $22 billion budget request for the virus response, saying it prevented the US from building a stockpile of tests to use in case of a new one in winter surge

“You can’t fight a a deadly virus without resources,” he said, “and congressional inaction is really costly.

COVID accelerators could save 90,000 lives this winter. Will the Americans get them?

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