Via Teleconference

3:08 P.M. EST

MR. ZIENTS:  Good afternoon, and thanks for joining us. Today, Dr. Walensky will provide an update on Omicron, Dr. Fauci will present the latest science, and Dr. Murthy will discuss Pfizer’s vaccine application for kids under the age of five.  And then I’ll cover operational planning so that we’re ready for that age group. 

With that, over to Dr. Walensky.  Dr. Walensky?

DR. WALENSKY:  Thank you, Jeff.  Good afternoon.  I’d like to start by walking you through today’s data. 

The current seven-day daily average of cases is about 446,400 cases per day, a decrease of about 36 percent over the previous week.

The seven-day average of hospital admissions is about 17,100 per day, also a decrease of about 14 percent over the previous week. 

And the seven-day average daily deaths are about 2,300 per day, which is an increase of about 4 percent over the prior week.

While we continue to see large decreases in average daily case counts across the country, hospitalizations remain high, stretching our healthcare capacity and workforce to its limits in some areas of the country.  And daily deaths also remain quite high. 

And with the mixed news above, similar to other waves during the pandemic, our data continue to reinforce the critical importance of vaccination.

Last week, I shared data from our surveillance studies demonstrating the effectiveness of vaccination, including boosters, on decreasing cases, emergency department visits, and hospitalizations. 

Additional new data continue to support these findings.  On this slide, you can see data from 25 U.S. jurisdictions that report cases and deaths linked to vaccination status. 

Similar to what I showed you last week, vaccination and booster doses substantially decrease the risk of death from COVID-19.  Looking at the data from the week ending December 4th, the number of average weekly deaths for those who are unvaccinated was 9.7 per 100,000 people, but only 0.7 per 100,000 people for those who were vaccinated. 

This means the risk of dying from COVID-19 was 14 times higher for people who were unvaccinated compared to those who received only a primary series. 

For those who were boosted, the average of weekly deaths was 0.1 per 100,000 people, meaning that unvaccinated individuals were 97 times more likely to die compared to those who were boosted. 

I also want to share new data from CDC’s COVID-NET hospital surveillance network to further show how essential vaccination and boosting is in preventing hospitalization from COVID-19.

On this slide, you can see data comparing the percentage of people age 65 and older who are unvaccinated and boosted in the general population — in blue — and those who are hospitalized — in green. 

As shown on the slide, only 12 percent of those age 65 and over remain unvaccinated in the general population.  But when we look at those over the age of 65 who are in the hospital for COVID-19, 54 percent are unvaccinated. 

In stark contrast, now let’s look at those who have been boosted — on the bottom.  Here, 57 percent of those over age 65 are boosted in the general population.  And only 8 percent of those over the age of 65 and in the hospital for COVID-19 have received a booster dose. 

These same trends are seen across all age groups.  These data show us that the percent of people who are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 are disproportionately unvaccinated and disproportionately not boosted.

Additionally, these data confirm that vaccination and boosting continue to protect against severe illness and hospitalization, even during the Omicron surge.

If you are not up to date on your COVID-19 vaccinations, you have not optimized your protection against severe disease and death, and you should get vaccinated and boosted if you are eligible. 

Thank you.  I’ll now turn it over to Dr. Fauci.

DR. FAUCI:  Thank you very much, Dr. Walensky. 

What I’d like to do over the next couple of minutes is to address a common misperception and the result of misinformation, and that is whether vaccination negatively impacts people trying to conceive — namely does it have a negative impact on fertility. 

The data are clear. 

Next slide.

I will show a couple of representative studies.  This published just a week and a half ago in the American Journal of Epidemiology, which is a prospective cohort study of vaccination and SARS infection and fertility. 

The study is an NIH-funded pregnancy study online — or “PRESTO” for short — of couples who are trying to conceive through intercourse.  It enrolled participants before pregnancy and collected data on vaccination and other variables during the pre-conception period, and then collected data on subsequent fertility. 

There were over 2,000 females between the ages of 21 and 45 in the U.S. or Canada.  They were enrolled between December 2020 and September 2021, and they were followed through November 2021.

Next slide.

But data are clear: COVID-19 vaccination in male or female partners did not affect the likelihood of conception.  Couples were 18 percent less likely to conceive if the male partner had been infected with SARS-CoV-2 within 60 days before a menstrual cycle.  That is “infected,” not “vaccinated.”

However, the COVID-19 disease only temporarily reduced male fertility. 

Next slide.

In another study — published, again, about a week and a half ago — this was in an in vitro fertilization clinic.  And the question that was asked: that with people vaccinated, in this case, either with the Pfizer or the Moderna product had similar responses to ovarian stimulation, which is used to stimulate the ovary in preparation for in vitro fertilization.  And similar pregnancy outcomes compared with unvaccinated people.

The reproductive potential does not appear to be affected by vaccination in people who undergo in vitro fertilization.

Next slide.

So, what’s our takeaway message about vaccination and conception?  New data add to previous studies that indicate that COVID-19 vaccination does not negatively impact fertility.

CDC and professional medical organizations serving people of reproductive age emphasize, as shown on this website, that there’s no evidence that vaccination impairs fertility. 

And, of course, as we’ve all said over and over again, vaccination is recommended for people who are trying to get pregnant now or might become pregnant in the future, as well as their partners.  And anyone who’s vaccinated and pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now or might become pregnant in the future should also get a booster shot when eligible.

Final slide.

The message is the same: Get vaccinated and get boosted for so many reasons. 

Now over to you, Dr. Murthy.

SURGEON GENERAL MURTHY:  Well, thank you so much, Dr. Fauci.  And it’s good to be with everyone again today. 

As many of you know, the FDA has now received Pfizer’s application for a vaccine for children age six months through four years. 

Now, Jeff is going to talk more about how we’re preparing for the possibility of this milestone, but first I want to walk you through the process.

Pfizer’s application will now undergo the same independent, rigorous, and transparent review process that was used to authorize the vaccines that now more than 250 million Americans have received, including millions of children ages five and up.

It will involve the FDA receiving the full data from Pfizer, posting that data publicly, and then convening its advisory committee for a transparent discussion of the data.

The FDA will then render its opinion, after which the CDC and its advisory group will assess the data and make their recommendation.  This is the same rigorous process that was used to assess numerous vaccines long before the pandemic began.

I know how eager parents and caregivers are for the good news on this front.  For much of this pandemic, millions of parents have carried with them an added layer of worry knowing that their children under five didn’t have protection from COVID the way older vaccinated children do.

I felt this worry too as a father of a four-year-old daughter who is not yet eligible to get vaccinated.  That’s why I’m hopeful that we may be one step closer to having an added layer of protection for our younger children, and one less worry for their parents.

A vaccine for children under five would mean we would have vaccines available for essentially all age groups in America.  This would be a major milestone.

Now there are a number of steps ahead to determine if the vaccine is both safe and effective for our kids under five.  And please know that the FDA will not cut any corners in their review process.  They know that they are the gold standard that all of us rely on.

If and when the FDA and CDC decide to move forward, we will work closely with our trusted community partners to ensure that families have accurate science-based information about the vaccine so they can make the best decisions for their children.

And as we await this review process, I want to emphasize once more just how important it is that the rest of us get vaccinated and get our kids five and older, who are already eligible, vaccinated as well.  If you are 12 and up and you’re vaccinated, please get boosted as soon as you’re eligible. 

And all of us should wear high-quality masks when in public indoor settings.  This is how we can continue to create a wall of protection around our children under five as we look to safeguard their health.

Thanks so much for your time today.  I’ll pass it to Jeff.

MR. ZIENTS:  Well, thanks, Doctors.  If the FDA authorizes and CDC recommends this vaccine, 18 million children under the age of five will become eligible for protection from COVID-19.

Before we open up for questions, I want to share how we’re preparing now, just as we did with vaccines, for kids ages 5 to 11 so that we are ready and we hit the ground running following decisions from FDA and CDC.

Importantly, this vaccine is specifically formulated for kids under the age of five.  So, we’re working closely with states, local health departments, pediatricians, families, doctors, and pharmacies to ensure the vaccine is available at thousands of locations nationwide.

We’ve already secured ample doses and the necessary needles and supplies specially made for kids in this age group.

Following FDA authorization, we would immediately begin packing and shipping doses to states and healthcare providers.  And in short order following CDC recommendations, parents will be able to get their kids under five vaccinated at convenient locations, locations they know and trust.

While we know many parents are eager to get their kids the protection of the vaccine, we know others have questions.  So, we’re working with our partners to ensure all parents have access to the facts and information they need to make the right decision.

And as always, we’re laser-focused on equity and making sure we reach the hardest-hit and most at-risk communities and families.

A year ago, we stood up a historic nationwide vaccination program that’s now gotten 75 percent of adults in the U.S. fully vaccinated.

We then launched a boosters program that’s gotten almost 90 million Americans their booster shot.

And we established the vaccination program, specifically for kids ages 5 to 11, that has protected millions of kids around the country.

Now with the potential vaccine for kids under five on the horizon, our message to parents and families is simple: We’re doing everything we can to prepare now.  We’re taking all of the best practices and applying all of the lessons learned over the last 12 months to ensure getting kids under five the protection of vaccine is easy and convenient.

And we’ll be ready to start getting shots in arms soon after FDA and CDC make their decisions.

With that, let’s open it up for some questions.  Kevin?

MODERATOR:  Thanks, Jeff.  We have time for a few questions.  Please keep your questions to one.  First, let’s go to Laura Santhanam at PBS.

Q    Thanks so much.  Can — thinking about long COVID treatment, can you tell me just sort of latest updates with research about treatment availability and accreditation of clinics offering that treatment?

MR. ZIENTS:  Dr. Fauci?  Long COVID treatments.

DR. FAUCI:  Yeah, there is a very large study that’s been initiated some time ago — the RECOVER study — at the NIH in collaboration with other agencies looking at the incidence, the prevalence, and hopefully understanding the pathogenic mechanisms of long COVID.

Right now, the data are starting to come in.  It’s too early to make any definitive statements.  But for those individuals — and, as you know, long COVID means the persistence of signs and symptoms that are not explainable by any readily recognizable pathogenic process following the recovery from the acute infection.  There have been subjec- — some suggestions that it is an aberrant inflammatory response, perhaps some element of autoimmunity, perhaps some elements of persistence of nucleotide fragments from the virus.  All of these now are being actively pursued.

But before we can make any definitive statements, we need to learn a lot more about it, with the ultimate goal of figuring out how we might be able to mitigate or prevent some of those symptoms.

Thank you.

MR. ZIENTS:  Next question, please.

MODERATOR:  Let’s go to Jeff Mason at Reuters.

Q    Thank you.  My question is about the data and about habits.  With regard to data — for Dr. Fauci or Dr. Walensky — what is your take on why the booster rate seems to be lagging?  Why would people who have decided to get vaccinated, the first and second doses, not be getting more boosters?

And secondly, with regard to your — the data today with cases going down and hospitalizations going down, Dr. Lawensky [sic] — Walensky, do you think people should start to change their habits, and it’s okay now to maybe gather in groups more or to go out to bars and restaurants?  Or what is the overall guidance right now, in terms of — in terms of gathering in groups?

MR. ZIENTS:  Hey, Jeff.  This is Jeff.  Why don’t we just start with the baseline on where we are in the booster data.  And that is that about half of all Americans who are eligible for a booster have gotten a booster.  Eligibility is five months or greater for the mRNA vaccines — Pfizer and Moderna — and two months for J&J.  And importantly, about 70 percent of seniors — those over 65 — have gotten a booster. 

As you know, boosters are widely available.  They’re at convenient locations around the country, and they’re free.  And obviously, the impact of a booster, as Dr. Walensky said, is really important.  So, we obviously want to continue to drive that number higher and higher — the percent of Americans who have boosters. 

But over to you, Dr. Fauci.  And then, over to you, Dr. Walensky.

DR. FAUCI:  Well, Jeff, you know, I’m really not sure you’re asking a good question.  It’s almost a psychological or sociological question: Why would people who had enough understanding of the risk to go ahead and get the primary series — why we don’t have more getting the booster. 

I don’t have an easy explanation for that.  That’s one of the reasons why we keep trying to put the data out.  Because, as Dr. Walensky showed in her slide, the data are really stunningly obvious why a booster is really very important.

You first need to get vaccinated before you get boosted, that’s for sure.  But when you look at the difference of how a booster, for everything you ask it to do — to reconstitute, from an immunological and from a clinical standpoint, the diminished protection that you get not only with waning naturally of immunity, but also the negative impact on some of the variants that elude the immune response — fortunately for us, when you boost with the standard vaccine, which is against the original viral sequence, that you get such a good response. 

So, the only thing that we can do is to continue to come out with the data and to make sure the American public appreciates why it is so important for optimal protection to get boosted.

MR. ZIENTS:  Dr. Walensky?   

DR. WALENSKY:  And maybe I’ll just add in there: With regard to where cases and hospitalizations are, I think we are all cautiously optimistic as we’re seeing cases come down week over week; down 36 percent over the last week. 

I do think we have to use an important metric as a barometer, which is: How are our hospitals doing?  And our hospitalization rates are still quite high and certainly having hospital capacity challenges in many parts of the country still.

So, with that barometer, we’ve said before, Omicron — “milder” does not mean “mild.”  And so, we really do have to look to our hospitalization rates and our death rates to look to when it is time to lift some of these mitigation efforts.

We will continue to reevaluate, and we know people are anxious.

MR. ZIENTS:  Next question, please.

MODERATOR:  Let’s go to Jeannie Baumann at Bloomberg.

Q    Hi, thanks for taking my question.  I was hoping, Jeff, you could be a little more — when you said “short order” for the availability of those kid vaccines, I was hoping — do you mean like a week or a few days?

And then, Dr. Fauci, I was hoping you could talk a little bit about the Pandemic Preparedness Plan that NIAID released today, and, you know, how the lessons from COVID helped drive some of those plans, and what type of funding do you need to implement it.  Thank you.

MR. ZIENTS:  Yeah, so, on the vaccines for kids under five, we’re doing all the preparation now that we can do to be ready so that it’ll be available at trusted locations as soon as possible, post — I want to emphasize again — FDA and CDC recommendations.

We cannot begin actually packing and shipping until the FDA authorization, and then there’s the CDC ACIP process, which generally takes place a matter of days after the FDA.

So, we’re talking, you know, a matter of several days to a week or so, based on the 5- to 11-year experience from FDA authorization to when the first doses will start to be shots in arms.  But we’ll move as fast as possible, pending the decision of CDC and FDA.  And I think the preparation we’re doing now will enable us to do so.

The second part of your question?

DR. FAUCI:  Yeah, I’ll answer that, Jeff.  She was asking about the Pandemic Preparedness Plan.

You know, very briefly, Jeannie, it is really founded on what we’ve been talking about for some time now, which is the prototype pathogen approach where you get fundamental information, data, and preparedness on each of the multiple families that are projected to be as a risk.

For example, fortunately for us, we had been doing that with the coronaviruses when we got a lot of information from SARS-CoV-1 and MERS, and were already involved in the preparation of both platform technology and immunogen design.  We planned to do that by selecting out anywhere from 10 to 20 families of viruses in which we can find common denominators within the family and do the immunological background to do the development of phase-one-type vaccines so that we could hit the ground running.

The second part of the program relates to both the development and the discovery of antiviral drugs — those that are already around, namely, have been used for other purposes — that we might apply them to whatever of the families that I mentioned a moment ago.  But the other is to use the replication cycle of the virus — similar to what we did with HIV and what we’re doing with COVID-19 — to be able to develop antivirals against the whole family.

That’s just, kind of, a snapshot of the plan that the NIH just recently put out.

With regard to the budget, I mean, obviously it’s too early to talk about that because we’re in negotiations right now for what our budgetary needs are.

Thank you.

MR. ZIENTS:  Next question, please.

MODERATOR:  Let’s go to Meg Tirrell at CNBC.

Q    Thanks.  One for Dr. Fauci and one for Dr. Walensky.

For Dr. Fauci: Are you expecting we’ll see an efficacy update with the data for kids under five?  I think a lot of parents are (inaudible) unsure about how optimistic they should be feeling right now, when the last update we got was that the immune-bridging study didn’t meet goals.  So, are you expecting to see that we’ll actually see this prevent cases of COVID?

And then, for Dr. Walensky, can you give us an update on BA.2 — its prevalence and your expectation for how it could affect, sort of, the curve of this Omicron wave?

DR. FAUCI:  Yeah, Meg, thank you.  I mean, obviously, we are anticipating that we will get a good efficacy signal for the use of vaccines in children under five years old. 

But, right now, as you know, the FDA is looking at the data very carefully and, in their typical fashion, they will be very careful in scrutinizing the data and making a recommendation and a decision based on that data. 

So, I don’t want to get ahead of them.  But, of course, we’re anticipating we will get a vaccine efficacy signal that would allow for the use of this vaccine in children.  But let’s wait for the FDA determination and, ultimately, the CDC recommendation.

MR. ZIENTS:  Dr. Walensky?

DR. WALENSKY:  Yeah, great.  Thank you, Meg, for that question.

So, our genomic surveillance now is detecting BA.2 projecting around 1.5 percent in this country.  Of course, that varies for different parts of the country, but around one of — 1.5 percent projection of the sequences that we’re seeing.

What we know about BA.2 so far is that it does have a modest transmission advantage over BA.1.  However, it’s not nearly the transmission advantage that we’ve seen between Omicron and Delta.

In terms of early studies, we have not seen any studies that suggest it’s more severe, nor have we seen studies that suggests that it will evade our vaccines any more so than Omicron has already — and, in fact, that our vaccines will work just like it has with Omicron.

So, in terms of how we anticipate this will impact cases: In many places we’ve seen BA.2 so far, cases have continued to come down, although at a slower rate.

In some case — in some countries, like Denmark, cases have gone up associated with BA.2, but that’s also in the context of relaxing mitigation strategies, mitigation measures, which is why we’re currently keeping those in place, among the reasons.

MR. ZIENTS:  Thanks.

SURGEON GENERAL MURTHY:  Jeff, can I add though —

MR. ZIENTS:  Please, Dr. Murthy.

SURGEON GENERAL MURTHY:  — one point to Meg’s question?

Meg, at the heart of your question I think is something that many parents may be wondering about, which is: What’s changed between December when Pfizer shared their news and now?

And they’re — it’s a big change that’s happened, which is we experienced the Omicron surge.  And with many children in particular, as well as adults, being infected and ending up in the hospital during the Omicron surge, it turns out that has actually facilitated the collection of important clinical data, additional clinical data that we did not have in December.  Whether that changes the risk-benefit profile is what the FDA will be assessing.  But there has been developments since December on the data front.

MR. ZIENTS:  Next question, please.

MODERATOR:  Let’s go to Jacqueline Howard at CNN.

Q    Thank you for taking my question.  I understand that, earlier this week, governors who met with the President expressed that they were seeking more clear guidelines from the White House on what the transition out of the pandemic and into a greater state of normality might look like.

Obviously, I know we’re not quite there yet.  But my question is: When might we see such guidance?  And can you give us any insight into if and how those guidelines will be prepared?  What metrics will be considered?  And how will that guidance be communicated to state leaders and to the public?  Thank you.

MR. ZIENTS:  Well, as you as you can see from the discussion today, right now our focus is on fighting Omicron.  While cases are coming down, as Dr. Walensky pointed out, there’s still a high level of hospitalization, largely driven, as the data shows, by the unvaccinated.

At the same time, we are always, you know, planning for the future.  The most important thing that we have now, when comparing to a year ago, are the tools to protect people:

The vaccines and the effectiveness that we’ve talked about, particularly with boosters that offer the highest level of protection; a pediatric vaccine on the horizon; and treatments, including pills that are highly effective against severe disease and hospitalization.

So, we are in a much stronger position than a year ago.  We have 210 million people fully vaccinated, including 75 percent — three out of four — of every adult.  We had less than a percent when the President took office a year ago — people vaccinated.  So, from 1 percent up to 75 percent of adults. 

Ninety-eight, ninety-nine percent of schools are open.  That number was 46 percent when the President took office.

We have free tests, free masks, and booster shots widely available.

So, our progress over the last year and the tools we now have certainly allow us to get closer to a time when COVID doesn’t disrupt our daily lives but is something we protect against and treat.

And as we make more progress against Omicron, we’ll, you know, get closer to that point.

Next question, please.

MODERATOR:  Let’s go to Zeke with AP.

Q    Thanks.  I was wanting to follow up on Jeff’s last point there and maybe get the doctors’ input as well.

In terms of that pathway to that vision of a point where COVID-19 doesn’t alter Americans’ daily lives, you know, for many over the past couple of years it feels a little bit like, you know, the Charlie Brown football here, where it’s, you know, “Get vaccinated.  (Inaudible) you need to get a booster.  But even if you’re vaccinated and boosted, you still need to wear your mask to protect people who aren’t vaccinated.”

Is there a sense yet that you can offer the American public based upon your studies, based upon what you now know about Omicron — you know, is this the last wave?  Is there enough that you can say, by a point certain, COVID will not impact people’s daily lives anymore?  And if not, you know, why not?  What else do you need to know?

MR. ZIENTS:  Dr. Fauci.

DR. FAUCI:  Well, we have to be totally honest that we don’t know whe- — we believe that we are now going in the right direction.  And the best-case scenario, as I and my colleagues have often described, is that with the tools that we have — the vaccination, the boosting, the testing, the masking, and all the other mitigations that we know about — when you have a level of community protection, which is the level of immunity throughout the community, that we will reach a stage — and I hope that it’s sooner rather than later — when, as you have said, this will not dominate our lives.  In other words, it will be similar to the assimilation of this virus, in the group of viruses that we have learned to live with, without disruption of our society. 

You know, the RSVs, the parainfluenzas — the influenzas where it’s there, it’s present, it hasn’t been eradicated, it hasn’t been eliminated, but it isn’t at a level that it essentially dominates what we do and dramatically influences our lives. 

We believe we will get there.

We can’t guarantee that there will not be another variant that challenges us, but the best that we can do with that is to be prepared for it.  And that’s why we’re doing all the things that we’re doing with regard to getting better, more advanced vaccine.  For example, different platforms, different immunogen designs, development and discovery of new drugs — all of that will be part of the armamentarium that will ultimately, even with the appearance of additional variants, will get us to the point where we will not be dominated by this virus; where we can return to a degree of normality that we all crave for.

MODERATOR:  All right, time for a couple more questions.  Let’s go to Sheryl Stolberg at the New York Times.

Q    Thanks for taking this question.  It’s for Jeff and for Dr. Fauci.  Senators Murray and Burr have proposed a legislation that would create a task force to examine the initial emergence of the coronavirus and also assess the United States’ response across both the Trump and Biden administrations.  It would be appointed by Congress, not by the White House.  And I’m wondering — to Jeff: Is this something that the President supports?  And for Dr. Fauci: Do you think it’s necessary to conduct an inquiry into the origins of the virus?

MR. ZIENTS:  Well, Sheryl, thanks for the question.  Let’s start with — you know, we share the senators’ focus.  A lot of the bill is about building stronger public health systems.  And we appreciate the bipartisan goals to ensure the country is better prepared for outbreaks in the future, like COVID. 

Right now, as we’ve been talking about, our, you know, focus is 100 percent on fighting Omicron and COVID.  And while cases are coming down, the hospitalizations, as we discussed, are still quite high. 

And across time, we do look forward to engaging with Congress and reviewing lessons learned from this pandemic. 

So, I think that right now our focus is on Omicron, but we appreciate the work the senators have done and look forward to working with them.

Dr. Fauci?

DR. FAUCI:  Yeah.  Sheryl, I think it’s important to look at every aspect of this outbreak for lessons learned that is not only what the origin of the virus and the origin of the outbreak is, but many other things that we could learn from in the future so that we can prevent something like this happening or respond better if and when it does.

One of those is understanding what the origin of the virus is.  And it’s very important.  For example, studies were done with the first SARS-CoV-1 that we experienced in 2002 and 2003, and there was a mystery about how that happened.  And then finally, after a lot of studies that actually took years to finally show that the origin was from a bat to an intermediate host to a human, very likely in a wet-market-type situation.

That was very important because that led to things that unfortunately were not followed, namely a better control in regulation of the wild animal trade and the interface between humans and animals.

The other one was MERS, in which it was shown finally that this was a bat reservoir that very likely infected camels and camels to human.

That also provides public health guidelines for the interaction of an animal-human interface.  So, it would be, obviously, important to be able to determine how this went from what was very likely an animal reservoir — given the similarity with bat viruses — how that happened to go into humans to lead to this outbreak.

Understanding that will help us to prepare for any future outbreak, as well as prepare for a response.  So, I’m definitely in favor of that.

MR. ZIENTS:  Kevin?

MODERATOR:  Last question.  Let’s go to Peter Sullivan, The Hill.

Q    Hi, thanks.  There’s — a group of Democrats in Congress have called for $17 billion in the next appropriations package for global vaccinations and other aspects of the global response.

I’m wondering if the White House supports that, and are you planning to, you know, ask Congress for that in the next package.  Thanks.

MR. ZIENTS:  So, we have what we need in this current fight against Omicron, and we’ve done a lot to prepare for what’s ahead.  We have boosters for all Americans, we’ve secured 20 million doses of the highly effective Pfizer pill.  We’ve expanded supplies and stockpiles of PPE, including masks and gloves.

So, while we have enough money, enough funding for the current, immediate needs, we need to continue — as we’ve talked about — to stay ahead of the virus.  And we are looking at a future where we will likely need funding for treatments and pills; we’ll need funding to continue to expand testing and to continue to lead the effort, as we’ve done with 1.2 billion doses donated to the world, but to continue to lead that effort to vaccinate the world.

So, we will be working with Congress as needed to make sure we have the funding to continue to fight this virus.

I want to thank everybody for the questions and look forward to the next briefing.

Thank you.

3:44 P.M. EST

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