Via Teleconference

3:03 P.M. EDT

     MR. ZIENTS:  Good afternoon.  And thanks for joining us.  Today, Dr. Walensky will share the latest on the state of the pandemic and the BA.2 variant, Dr. Fauci will then discuss NIH’s critical role in the research development of COVID therapeutics, and Secretary Becerra and I will discuss the clear consequences if Congress fails to provide more funds for the COVID response.

     Let me start by emphasizing a consistent message you’ll hear from each of us: We urgently need additional funding from Congress to continue our fight against COVID. 

     We’ll start with Dr. Walensky.  Dr. Walensky?

     DR. WALENSKY:  Thank you, Jeff.  And good afternoon everyone.  I’m delighted to be back with you this week.  Let’s start by walking you through the latest data.

     We have seen cases decrease dramatically over the past few weeks.  And our national numbers remain close to historic lows, which is really encouraging.  In some areas, we are now recording small increases even as cases continue to fall in other areas.

     We continue to closely monitor data from all of our incoming sources, including waste water surveillance, cases, and hospitalizations. 

Nationally, the current seven-day daily average of cases is about 28,600 cases per day, a decrease of about 9 percent over the previous week. 

The seven-day average of hospital admissions is about 1,900 per day, a decrease of about 23 percent over the previous week. 

And the seven-day average daily deaths are about 900 per day, which is a decrease of about 26 percent over the previous week. 

CDC has been closely tracking the BA.2 sublineage of the Omicron variant carefully.  The variant has been in the United States for about the past two months, and it has been slowly increasing in proportion compared to BA.1. 

This week, we estimate that BA.2 represents about 35 percent of circulating variants nationally.  As we’re learning from our colleagues in Europe, Asia, and South Africa, where BA.2 has resulted in varied peaks of cases, there’s no evidence that BA.2 variant results in more severe disease, nor does it appear to be more likely to evade our immune protection. 

However, it does have increased transmission in comparison to the related BA.1 Omicron variant that circulated in the U.S. this past winter. 

Over the past week, we have seen a small increase in reported COVID-19 cases in New York state and New York City, and some increases in people in the hospital with COVID-19 in New England, specifically where the BA.2 variant has been reaching levels above 50 percent.  This small increase in cases in the Northeast is something that we are closely watching as we look for any indication of an increase in severe disease from COVID-19 and track whether it represents any strain on our hospitals.  We have not yet seen this so far. 

Nationwide, cases have been steadily decreasing since the Omicron BA.1 surge.  While this is good news, we do expect that cases may continue to fluctuate, including increases in individual communities, which is exactly why the COVID-19 Community Level metrics are in place. 

One way that CDC and our public health partners collaborate is by monitoring potential increases in cases and transmission is through the COVID-19 wastewater surveillance system.  Currently, we’re seeing a modest uptick of sites reporting an increase of virus levels in wastewater in some communities.  In fact, over the past two weeks, we’ve seen increasing wastewater signals in New York City and parts of New England, where we are now seeing increases in cases and some increased hospitalizations. 

But I want to emphasize that these upticks reflected minor increases from very low levels to still very low levels, but sustained trends over time can give us an early indication of COVID-19 infections in communities. 

So these are the areas that we are watching carefully, and an example of the interplay of our data systems that we use to inform our public health decisions.  If cases do go up, we have the framework to implement additional layers of prevention strategies at the local level to swiftly protect individuals and communities. 

CDC will continue to use all of the tools in our toolbox to closely keep an eye on any increase in COVID-19 in communities, including early indicators like wastewater surveillance, any uptick in cases and hospitalizations, and any changes in our genomic surveillance that monitors for circling variants. 

I’d like to emphasize that if cases rise from the Omicron variant or any other variant, we have the tools, vaccines, boosters, tests, and therapeutics to be prepared.  But continued investment in these tools so that they are readily available when we need them remains critical. 

I know Jeff and the Secretary will talk more about the consequences of funding, but from a public health standpoint, it is critical that we continue to provide people with the tools to keep them, their families, and their communities safe. 

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 in the next couple of minutes is to bring you an update on COVID-19 treatments.

If I have the next slide.

The medical management of individuals with SARS-CoV-2 are essentially threefold.  One is to control symptoms, which is usually done as an outpatient for many — in fact, the vast majority — of people who are infected with SARS-CoV-2.  With serious disease, there’s end-organ support that we’ve described in the past.  But what I wanted to emphasize over the next couple of minutes is the issue of antivirals and immunomodulators, particularly the newest antivirals, with the purpose of keeping people out of the hospital. 

Next slide. 

As you can see from this schematic, we now have a number of antivirals in our toolkit for non-hospitalized patients with ca- — with COVID-19 during the Omicron era.  And I want to emphasize “during the Omicron era” because several of the others — for example, some of the monoclonal antibodies — were negated by the evolution of the Omicron era.  What you see on this slide are those interventions which clearly work well to keep people out of the hospital. 

I want to emphasize for a moment, the one you see on the far right, bebtelovimab.  I want to talk a little bit about that.

Next slide. 

The FDA authorized this new monoclonal antibody for the treatment of COVID-19 that retains activity in the Omicron era, and it’s for individuals that are described on this slide with positive results of direct viral testing, at a high risk for the progression to severe disease, and for whom we do not have any other alternative therapies. 

This is very important because — as shown on the next slide — as we get more variants, we have to make sure — and we have been fortunate for drugs like Paxlovid and others that they’ve maintained their efficacy against the variants as they’ve arrer- — as they’ve arisen. 

As you can see on this slide, there have been a number of evolution of variants.  But note that the babted- — the bebtelovimab actually has no change in its ability to neutralize.

A word about this particular monoclonal antibody. 

Next slide. 

It was developed from antibodies from a recovered COVID-19 patient, which is generally the source of all of the monoclonal antibodies.  It was developed in a collaborative operation with AbCellera and the NIAID Vaccine Research Center and ultimately developed by Eli Lilly. 

The reason I bring this to your attention is this is the kind of interaction and work that have been done in collaboration between the NIH and our industrial partners. 

Getting back to what was said and what you will hear more of: It’s important to keep up these interactions, which is the importance for continued funding. 

Next slide. 

And in this regard, Secretary Becerra, who you’ll hear from shortly, announced the purchase of 600,000 of these treatment courses of this new monoclonal antibody.  We’ve subcontracted for an additional 500,000.  But, again, unless we get the funding requested of the Congress, we will not be able to continue to make these purchases. 

Next slide.

I want to close by just mentioning something that will certainly come up with discussions.  We continually get asked, “Will we all need a fourth COVID shot?”  Now this is something that is obviously being pursued and examined from the standpoint of the data.  Right now, a fourth shot is recommended for people with severe immunocompromised.  Other nations, such as the UK, have recommended it for individuals who are elderly and also for those with immune compromise.

Here in this country, we’re looking at it and letting the data drive us.  As you know, on April 6th, the FDA will call their VRBPAC to take a look at the long range of where we might go with new variants and where a fourth shot fits in with that. 

There’s also the immediate situation of looking at what we might do over the next few weeks to a month.  And in that regard, two companies — Moderna and Pfizer — have submitted to the FDA for an EUA for the use of a fourth shot.  What we can say today is that those data have been submitted, some are continuing to be accumulated, and will be appropriately evaluated, as we usually do, with the FDA and ultimately with the CDC. 

And on the final slide — just another reminder, if you want to get information about the treatment guidelines, you can go to that website.  It’s a long website.  But if you don’t remember it, just put NIH.gov and it would lead you to that. 

I’ll stop there.  And now back to you, Jeff.

MR. ZIENTS:  Well, thank you, Doctors.  Over the past 14 months, we’ve made tremendous progress in our fight against COVID.  Nearly 220 million Americans are fully vaccinated.  Two in three eligible adults, including over 80 percent of eligible seniors, have now received a booster shot. 

As Dr. Fauci just said, we have highly effective treatments, free and convenient tests, and high-quality masks. 

Bipartisan support from Congress has been key to making this progress.  But the President and the doctors have made it abundantly clear that we still have more work to do.

As Dr. Walensky just explained, we’re seeing BA.2 rise in Europe and in other parts of the world.  And we know cases will fluctuate here at home. 

If we maintain our preparedness, an increase in cases does not need to be a cause for alarm like it once was.  We know what tools we need to fight the virus.  Unfortunately, because of congressional action, we’re at risk of not having these tools readily available. 

This should be unacceptable to every American.  For months, we’ve made clear to Congress, on a bipartisan basis, that funding for core COVID medical supplies — including vaccines, treatments, and tests — was running out.  Congress has failed to act.  They failed to provide the necessary funding, and we’re already seeing the consequences. 

Let me turn to Secretary Becerra to describe what’s happening as a result of Congress’s failure to provide the necessary funding.

Secretary?

SECRETARY BECERRA:  Thanks, Jeff.  As Jeff has said, we’re in a new moment in our fight against COVID.  We’ve reached this point because so many Americans have stepped up and done their part and because we’ve had the resources we need to protect our families and to save lives. 

On numerous occasions, at least six distinct times, Congress has been there to drive resources where they’ve been needed.  The latest critical investment came with last year’s American Rescue Plan.  I want to thank my former colleagues in Congress for the funding that has allowed us to execute on the President’s pandemic response. 

Execution means administering more than 550 million shots in arms here at home, distributing more than 7 million treatments to patients across the country, making hundreds of millions of N95 masks and at-home tests available to the American people for free, and leaving no community behind, including by funding more than 1,400 community health centers so they can get vaccines, treatments, tests, and masks to patients without charge. 

The President’s COVID-19 Preparedness Plan builds on these efforts to help America move forward safely, but continued execution requires continued support from Congress.  And at this stage, our resources are depleted. 

The fund Congress established to reimburse doctors and other medical providers for COVID care for Americans — in particular, the uninsured — is no longer accepting new claims from providers for testing or for treatment services, as of yesterday. 

The fund will also have to stop accepting new claims for vaccination services on or about April 5th.  This means doctors, nurses, pharmacists, labs, and other healthcare providers will no longer get payments through the fund for providing these pandemic services to Americans.

On monoclonal antibody treatments, we have had to cancel a purchase for additional supplies of these treatments which had been planned for this week.  Our current supply of these therapeutics is projected to start to run out by late May. 

One of the consequences of diminishing supply or the resources to plan ahead and invest in future needs is that, on Monday, we had to cut the supply of monoclonal antibody treatments that we had distributed in the past to every state.  That distribution to each state was reduced by 35 percent.

     We’re also having to scale back our plans to purchase more doses of AstraZeneca’s preventive therapies for Americans who are immunocompromised.  This increases the risk of having an insufficient supply of this treatment by the fall of this year. 

     The President’s COVID team at the White House and HHS has briefed Congress on a number of occasions in great detail on our pandemic preparation, response, and the status of resources.  We’ve provided information orally and in writing to members as requested.

     Our success in fighting COVID depends on our continued vigilance, our unwavering support for our scientists, our healthcare heroes, our essential workers, and our families navigating this COVID world. 

     We’re prepared to execute the President’s plan.  We look forward to working with Congress, our state and local partners, and every responsible American to come out of this pandemic in a better place.

Back to you, Jeff.

MR. ZIENTS:  Thanks, Secretary.  I want to outline additional impacts that will occur over the coming weeks and months if Congress does not provide the appropriate level of funding for the continued fight against COVID.

Let me start with vaccinations.  We have enough supply for the immunocompromised to get a fourth dose and, if authorized in the coming weeks, enough supply for fourth doses for our most vulnerable, including seniors.  So we have enough inventory of vaccines to support possible fourth doses this spring.  However, if the science shows that fourth doses are needed for the general population later this year, we will not have the supply necessary to ensure shots are available, free, and easy to access for all Americans.

Without more funding, we can’t procure the necessary vaccine supply to support fourth shots for all Americans.  Furthermore, if things change and there’s a need for a new vaccine, a new formulation — for example, a variant-specific vaccine — we won’t be able to secure doses for the American people and we won’t be able to ensure America is first in line for them.

Not having enough vaccines is completely unacceptable, as vaccines have proven to be our single most important tool in protecting Americans.  We should be securing additional supply right now.

Many other countries are already doing so.  In fact, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Hong Kong have already secured future booster doses. 

Beyond vaccines, without additional funding, we can’t sustain the domestic testing manufacturing capacity we’ve built over the past year.  And because it takes months to ramp back up to rebuild capacity, failure to invest now will leave us with insufficient testing capacity and supply if we see another surge in cases and demand for testing increases once again.  That should not be allowed to happen.

To summarize the consequences of congressional inaction are severe and they are immediate: the uninsured fund is winding down, fewer lifesaving monoclonal treatments are being sent to states, fewer treatments available for the immunocompromised, and we risk not having sufficient vaccine supply or testing capacity.  These consequences will only get more significant over time, with less treatments, vaccines, and tests for the American people.

Congressional inaction also hampers our global response.  We all know this virus knows no borders, and leaving large unvaccinated populations worldwide will increase the risk of new deadly variants emerging that could put Americans at risk.

Under President Biden’s leadership, we’ve donated 1.2 billion vaccine doses to the world with more than 500 million doses already delivered to 113 countries.  The challenge now is turning these vaccines into vaccinations — though without more funding, we can’t extend the support to under-vaccinated countries that they need this year to get shots in arms. 

The bottom line is we’ve made tremendous progress across the last 14 months in the fight against COVID.  And the President has a plan to sustain and build on this progress and ensure we remain prepared in the face of this very unpredictable virus.  But we need Congress to act and provide $22.5 billion in immediate emergency funding so we can execute on the plan, so we can be prepared for whatever comes next. 

Importantly, those who have been on the frontlines, Republican and Democratic governors, hospitals across the country, teachers, and 200 leading public health experts have all called for additional funding for the COVID response.

Further congressional inaction will set us back, leave us less prepared, and cost more lives.  There’s no time to waste; Congress needs to act.

With that, let’s open it up for questions.  Over to you, Kevin.

MODERATOR:  Thanks, Jeff.  We have time for a few questions today.  So, everybody, please keep their questions brief.

First, let’s go to Sabrina Siddiqui at the Wall Street Journal.

Q    Thank you as always for doing the briefing.  I just wanted to circle back to the BA.2 variant.  Is it your expectation that that will become the dominant strain here in the U.S.?  And while cases overall, as you said, are in decline nationally, do you expect that we may still see an Omicron-type surge as we did in — over the winter?

And how are you defining, you know, the trans- — community transmission levels in terms of restrictions like masks?  You know, to move from low to medium to high, is it — is it focused just on hospital admissions or is it — or is there a certain threshold or benchmark of cases that would necessitate, for example, bringing back masks?  Thank you.

MR. ZIENTS:  Okay.  Dr. Walensky?

DR. WALENSKY:  Yeah, thank you, Sabrina.  So, we do anticipate and we have seen over the last eight weeks as we’ve been following BA.2 here that it is representing an increasing proportion of the cases that we have.  Now, of course, that is a smaller number of cases, but we do anticipate over the weeks that we may see it become the predominant variant here as it has already in in the Northeast.

In terms of how we’re defining our — and what I will say, though, is — back to what Jeff and I just spoke about — should we see more BA.2, we actually have the tools — while it is slightly more transmissible than the original Omicron, our vaccines work, our boosters work, and it does not indicate more severe disease than the original Omicron.  So those tools are going to be key in protecting ourselves and our communities against BA.2.

In terms of our COVID-19 community metrics, we look at hospitalizations for COVID-19.  We look at hospital capacity.  And importantly, we also look at cases.  So all of those go into the formulation as we use those metrics for future guidance.

MR. ZIENTS:  Next question, please.

MODERATOR:  Let’s go to Betsy Klein at CNN.

Q    Hey, thanks for taking my question.  Given Dr. Fauci’s remarks on the consideration of a second booster for adults, potentially within the next few weeks, and then your comments, Jeff, that there won’t be supply for Americans who aren’t seniors or immunocompromised without congressional action, should those Americans expect to pay out of pocket for an extra booster?  And will there be vaccine supply for Americans who haven’t necessarily had a first, second, or third shot yet and chose to do so in the coming weeks?

MR. ZIENTS:  Yeah, so let me make it clear that we do have sufficient current inventory of vaccines, both at states and pharmacies, in other access points around the country, and in our central inventory for fourth doses if they’re called for this spring for our most vulnerable, including seniors.

Where we do not have sufficient doses is later in the year if there’s a — the science dictates that all Americans should get a booster or if there’s a need for a new formulation of the vaccine — a variant-specific vaccine, for example — then we will not have sufficient supply.

In terms of people getting their primary series — their first or second dose, or their first booster — we continue to have sufficient supply in the near term.

Next question, please.

MODERATOR:  Let’s go to Peter Sullivan at The Hill.

Q    Hi, thanks.  I wanted to ask, on the funding issue, Senator Romney said today that he’s expecting a new proposal from Democratic leadership.  It sounds like with some new offsets in it.  Is the White House involved in that new proposal?  And, you know, do you feel like you need to engage on the offset question a little more, given that Republican senators still seem to be saying it needs to be offset?

MR. ZIENTS:  So, let me just sort of step back and start with our Hill engagement and how long we’ve been at this.

We’ve been extensively engaged with Congress for months now.  And, you know, going back to just after the New Year, mid-January, we’ve been working with members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, on the funding needs for the COVID response.  We’ve hosted dozens of briefings, we’ve held more than three dozen conference calls, and we’ve shared more than a dozen funding tables.

We’ve given Congress a full accounting of our — of every dollar that’s been spent on the COVID medical response and a full accounting of the entire American Rescue Plan, which, as you all know, goes well beyond the direct medical needs.

We’ve also provided all the specifics of the planned additional funding — how it will be deployed against additional purchase of monoclonals and pills and vaccines, as we were just talking about.

In total — I brought it with us — we’ve sent 385 pages of documents and tables to Congress.  So let me be very clear: Congress has all the information it needs, and we’ve been responding to questions for months now.  Congress has had plenty of time to act.  And time is of the essence, as we heard across the briefing today. 

With every day that passes, we risk not having the tools we need to fight COVID.  And the bottom line is just, you know, crystal clear here: The virus is not waiting for Congress to act.  With every minute this funding request is stalled, we’re losing our ability to protect people and be prepared. 

You know, in terms of offsets, this is emergency — this is an emergency funding request, and there has not been a need for offsets for an emergency funding request.  So, we fully believe that Congress should act, they should fund the $22.5 billion, and there should be no need for offsets. 

Next question, please.

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

Q    Well, thanks.  I’m wondering if Dr. Fauci or Dr. Walensky could give us some reflections on the news from Moderna today of results they put out in a press release for kids under six for the vaccine.  And then also for Jeff, for the Secretary: How does the funding situation impact the potential vaccine rollout for kids under six?  Is there sufficient supply for them?  And, you know, if there’s not vaccine being paid for in the same way by the government, could that affect kids being able to access vaccines too?

MR. ZIENTS:  Okay, Dr. Fauci, on the Moderna news.

DR. FAUCI:  Yeah.  Thank you for that question, Meg. So the data and the announcement made by Moderna reflects a study done in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health in which they looked at the effect of a 25 microgram dose of the Moderna product in children within the age group of six months up to six years — less than six, but from six months up.

The primary endpoint of the data was not an efficacy endpoint; it was immunogenicity to see if that dose in that particular cohort induced a response comparable to the higher dose that you see in the adults.  And it met that primary endpoint.

Also, the safety profile was quite good — nothing more or less than you would naturally see with so many other vaccinations.  However, there was enough events with regard to infection and enough people in the study that they were able to get an efficacy signal.  But the efficacy signal was for infection and there was not enough or any severity of disease, either in the placebo or in the vaccine group, to make any determination of the efficacy against severe disease. 

The efficacy against infection was 44 percent.  Now, that may seem like a low number, but in the era of Omicron, this is actually quite comparable to the efficacy against infection in what we’re seeing now with other vaccines. 

So, the data looked pretty good.  Right now, they’re going to make those data available to the FDA.  They will be submitting within a reasonable period of time for an EUA for that particular group for that particular purpose.

MR. ZIENTS:  In terms of the supply, we do have that supply secured for kids under the age of six, so that is good news.  And we will be ready operationally if the vaccine — and when the vaccine is authorized and recommended.  And we’ll have those vaccinations available at tens of thousands of locations across the country that parents know and trust.  So, we are — we do have the supply secured, and we will be ready operationally. 

Next question, please.

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

Q    Thank you.  One follow-up on the issue of an additional booster.  Isn’t it — if I understood this correctly, isn’t it possible, Dr. Fauci and Jeff, that there could be approval for everyone in the country to get a fourth booster coming up?  And if that is the case, do we have — does the United States have enough vaccine for that?  Not — and I don’t mean later in the fall, Jeff, but I mean like right now if that comes through. 

And then one other question for Dr. Lawensky [Walensky].  Could you let us know if the CDC is planning to lift the Title 42 order for all other migrants at the border?  And if so — or if not, why or why not?  Thank you.

MR. ZIENTS:  Dr. Fauci.

DR. FAUCI:  So, Jeff, when we were talking about the possibility in my brief introduction about the possibility of a fourth dose, there’s the immediate issue and question, and then there’s the long-range question.

The long-range question, I think is what you’re referring to, is the advisability or not of a fourth dose of vaccine for the general population.  As I mentioned, the FDA will have a VRBPAC meeting on the 6th of April to look at what would be needed with regard to the kind of boost that would be needed, whether it would be variant specific or ancestral-strain specific, and for what population might it be needed in the long range.  And in the long range, we’re talking, for example, towards the beginning of the fall, the end of the summer.

The situation right now of the data that they are looking at with regard to fourth doses from both companies — from both the companies of the mRNA — the two companies for mRNA, Moderna and Pfizer — they’re going to be looking at data that have been submitted by those companies to the FDA to make a determination if there will be a subset — perhaps the elderly or others. 

And as I mentioned, we already know it’s already recommended for those with severe immune compromise.  So, people need to understand the difference between what’s being looked at in the next few weeks for the immediate versus the long range, which would involve the question you also asked of Jeff: If a determination is made that we need to do boosters for everyone, will there be available supply? 

But, Jeff, back to you.

MR. ZIENTS:  I think you captured it well.  I think that we do have a sufficient supply for what we anticipate could be authorized or rec- — and recommended in the coming weeks, months.  However, when you get later in the year, if there is a vaccine — fourth dose recommended for all Americans, we need the funding to secure enough supply to ensure that we have sufficient doses for all Americans.

Over to you, Dr. Walensky.

DR. WALENSKY:  Yeah.  Thank you, Jeff.  So we last reassessed Title 42 at the end of January.  As you recall, that was just around or right after the peak of our Omicron surge, and we had hospital capacity challenges really across the country.  That reassessment is due next week again, and we are currently reviewing the data and evaluating it right now.  So, more soon to come.  Thanks.

MR. ZIENTS:  Next question, please.

MODERATOR:  A couple of more questions.  Let’s go to Victoria Knight at Kaiser Health News.

Q    Hey, thanks so much for taking my question.  As you guys outlined today, funds are running out to reimburse providers for COVID-related treatment of the uninsured.  So what if Congress doesn’t act soon?  What is the administration’s plan for this?  And does this mean uninsured people will be left with big bills for COVID care?

MR. ZIENTS:  Secretary Becerra.

SECRETARY BECERRA:  So we’re planning to continue to provide the different services that we have put in place over the last year.  We’re going to continue to divert whatever resources we can to make sure we address the COVID needs of the American public.  We’ll continue to provide assistance in regions of the country where COVID is still hitting hard and providing medical support where we can.

So we’ll continue to do everything we can.  We’ll exhaust every dollar that we have.  We’ll use every dollar that we can — that is flexibly available to continue to provide for the need.  And we’ll also begin, if Congress continues to delay any additional funding — begin a process of outlining what it would take to continue to offer to the American people those vaccines, those treatments, those therapies that they are coming to rely upon. 

And so, whether it is moving towards allowing Americans to purchase these through other means or secure them through other means, or whether it means getting the support from Congress that allows us to continue to offer those for free, we’re going to continue to do what we can to make them available so that every American can remain safe and healthy.

MR. ZIENTS:  Next question, please.

MODERATOR:  Last question, let’s go to Gustau Alegret at NTN24. 

Q    Thank you for this opportunity and for doing this.  I have a couple of questions.  Dr. Fauci, you mentioned the fourth vaccine shot.  However, there’s still many Americans who resist being vaccinated — among them, millions in the Latino community.  Why you think there is still this resistance among Latinos?  And if I may, Secretary Becerra, could you send a clear message in Spanish, if possible, to those in this community to highlight the importance of being vaccinated.  Gracias.

MR. ZIENTS:  Dr. Fauci. 

DR. FAUCI:   Well, for the first part of your question, it is interesting and noteworthy that we have tried to get the equity of the availability and implementation of vaccines in minority communities — African Americans, Hispanics.  We’ve done actually quite well in the comparable percentage of non-minorities and minorities who get vaccinated to begin with. 

One of the things that has not been as successful — and we’re trying our very best to counter that — is that boosters are not as much being implemented among minorities, including Hispanics compared to whites. 

So, we’ve done very, very well with the equity of the original regimen.  We’ve got to do better when it comes to boosters.  And we’re trying everything we can to get the message out of why it is so important.  Because when you look at the data of what boosters do, particularly in the era of Omicron, boosters are extremely important.  So that is a deficit that we are trying to correct.

MR. ZIENTS:  Secretary Becerra.

SECRETARY BECERRA:  (Speaks Spanish.)

MR. ZIENTS:  Thank you, everybody, for the questions and for joining today’s briefing.

 3:41 P.M. EDT

To view the COVID Press Briefing slides, visit: https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/COVID-Press-Briefing_3.23.22.pdf

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