11:10 A.M. EDT
DR. JHA: Good morning, everybody. I’m delighted to be joined by two great colleagues: the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Dawn O’Connell, and our nation’s Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy. Thank you for joining us.
Now, today we want to provide an update on a topic that I know many parents and grandparents are focused on: the potential for the first COVID-19 vaccines for kids under five.
We have waited a long time for this moment. More than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic and after nearly 18 months since the first set of vaccines became available for adults, we are on the cusp of having safe, highly effective vaccines for kids under five.
Now, we want to lay out today the work we’re doing to make sure parents can easily get access to those vaccines.
Let me start off by making one very important point: We are not here to prejudge the outcome of the independent, science-driven process that is being led both by FDA and the CDC.
The FDA’s advisory committee is going to be meeting next week on Tuesday, June 14th, and Wednesday, June 15th, to review the data that was submitted by Pfizer and Moderna, and they will make their recommendations. We expect the FDA to make a decision shortly after those meetings.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee is then going to meet on Friday, June 17th, and Saturday, June 18th. We expect the CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, to then make her recommendation sometime after those meetings. If the FDA authorizes and CDC recommends that kids under five get vaccinated, vaccinations will begin quickly thereafter.
So, what does this mean for you if you’re a parent or a pediatrician? Realistically, it means we could see shots in arms of kids under five as early as the week of June 20th.
Now, as a reminder, Monday, June 20th, is an important federal holiday in observation of Juneteenth, and so we expect that many pediatricians’ offices may be closed. So we think that vaccinations would really start in earnest on Tuesday, June 21st.
And importantly, vac- — the vaccination program is going to ramp up in the days and weeks that follow, with more and more doses and more and more appointments becoming available.
Now, let’s actually take a moment to understand what a historic moment this is. If the FDA and CDC recommend these vaccines, this would mark an important moment in the pandemic. It would mean that, for the first time, essentially every American, from our oldest to our youngest, would be eligible for the protection that vaccines provide.
Now, I know many parents have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to vaccinate their youngest kids. We share in that eagerness.
We also know that it is important to do this right.
As my HHS colleagues will detail, we have been planning for this moment for months. We have been getting ready to launch a comprehensive effort to help America’s youngest kids get protected. That means working with state and local health departments. It means working with America’s pediatricians and family doctors. It means working with pharmacies and rural health clinics and community health centers and so many more.
Now, I want to close with a word on what we already know about COVID-19 vaccines and kids. While the deliberations and the data review for vaccines for kids under five are ongoing, we know that for kids over five, vaccines have made a tremendous difference.
Kids who are vaccinated are far less likely to get seriously ill from COVID. They’re far less likely to end up in the hospital or in the ICU. And they’re far less likely to get complications of COVID, like Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome of Children.
Vaccines are already making an enormous difference in keeping our kids over five protected as the pandemic continues.
Tens of millions of children in the U.S. and around the world have been vaccinated against COVID, and the safety profile of these vaccines is truly extraordinary.
So, the data on kids over five and vaccines is clear: Kids are better protected, they are better off if they’re vaccinated. That’s why I, as a dad, have three children, all of whom have been vaccinated and boosted.
This is why every physician, including every pediatrician and family physician I know, has vaccinated their own eligible kids and why we are anxiously awaiting the careful review of the FDA and the CDC to determine whether we can extend that protection to kids under five.
You know, when President Biden took office, he made a commitment to ensure that every American benefitted from the miracles that science has delivered us in these pandemics.
If these vaccines are authorized and recommended, we will get one giant step closer to fulfilling that commitment.
So, thank you for joining us this morning. I’d like to turn it over now to my colleague, Dawn O’Connell.
MS. O’CONNELL: Thank you, Dr. Jha. I’m pleased to be here.
Over the past 16 months, together with our partners, we have managed one of the most complex logistical challenges in our nation’s history: delivering more than 700 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to more than 90,000 locations nationwide.
Today, more than 220 million Americans are fully vaccinated. But we know that our work is not done yet.
COVID-19 vaccines for kids under the age of five would be a momentous milestone in our historic vaccination program, helping extend the protection that vaccines offer to our youngest Americans and some additional peace of mind to parents and guardians.
Our objective is clear: to be ready to swiftly and efficiently deliver vaccines for kids under the age of five to communities nationwide as soon as the FDA grants emergency use authorization.
We are ready.
To achieve our objective, we have engaged state, local, Tribal, and territorial health departments; pediatricians and primary care providers; children’s hospitals and health systems; and pharmacies on operational planning.
These are many of the same partners we’ve been engaged with on other vaccination and COVID-19 response efforts over the past few years. These partners are on the frontlines and critical to success, and we stand ready to help them in any way we can.
Last week, we opened up pre-ordering for states, Tribes, territories, and other partners to order doses. We are making 10 million doses of vaccine available initially, with millions more available in the coming weeks.
This approach allows us to seed communities with enough vaccine so that it is readily accessible and equitably distributed across the country.
We estimate that 85 percent of children under the age of five live within five miles of a potential vaccination site.
We have asked states and other partners to leverage prior pediatric vaccination best practices and tap into existing pediatric vaccination locations as they continue to sign up additional pediatricians and providers.
We have also asked states and other partners to ensure equity, giving priority to sites that will vaccinate children at highest risk for severe COVID-19 disease and considering factors such as hours of operation.
At this point in the Biden administration’s vaccination program, our partners are accustomed to this process, and so are we. Our teams are standing by and will immediately begin shipping vaccines across the country after — should FDA authorize a vaccine.
It will take some time to position these vaccines across the country, and vaccinations can’t begin until CDC has made its decision. But we also know that many parents have been waiting for a long time, so we will be working 24/7 until every dose is shipped and delivered.
As we have said previously, we are not in the predicting business, we’re in the planning business. Our teams are hard at work planning for the possibility that FDA and CDC will give the green light in the near future. And if and when they do, we will be ready to deliver.
Thank you. And I’ll turn to you now, Dr. Murthy.
SURGEON GENERAL MURTHY: Thanks so much, Dawn. Appreciate it.
First of all, it’s good to be with everyone again today.
As many of you know, my daughter is four years old, and she’s not yet eligible to be vaccinated. And my wife Alice and I, like millions of parents across the country, carry with us every day an added layer of worry knowing that our children under five don’t have the same opportunity as older children and adults to get vaccinated and, hence, protected from the worst outcomes of COVID-19.
More than 30,000 children under five in our country have been hospitalized with COVID during this pandemic, and nearly 500 deaths have been reported in this age group. So I know how eager many parents and caregivers are for good news on this front, to know that our youngest children have an added layer of protection.
But I also know that all of us as parents want to ensure that anything we are giving our children has gone through a rigorous scientific assessment and that it is both safe and effective for our kids.
That is why as soon as the FDA authorizes and the CDC recommends a pediatric vaccine for kids under five, we are going to launch a national public education campaign to ensure parents and families have all the information they need to make the best choices for their children.
Now, in addition to having medical and scientific experts from government speaking to communities, we will be working closely with community partners, as we have done in the past, to make sure that community members are hearing from local leaders and organizations that they know and trust.
We’re going to partner with organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Association of Children’s Museums, the American Library Association, the National PTA, the National Diaper Bank Network, and the National Association of Community Health Centers, as well as a number of Black, Latino, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Native American community-based organizations, including the W. Montague Cobb Health Institute and LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens.
We will support these organizations and local stakeholders as they launch health fairs, pop-up clinics, community forums, doctors’ speaking bureaus, and more.
And we’re going to mobilize the 17,000-plus-member COVID-19 Community Corps, which we launched last spring, to help provide creative, kid-focused English and Spanish language toolkits for trusted local messengers, including, I would add, a superhero-themed toolkit that I can tell you will play well in my house.
In this effort, we’re going to be building on lessons that we have learned and the trusted networks that we’ve built over the last 18 months.
Our prior COVID-19 vaccination efforts helped us protect millions of Americans from hospitalization and loss of life. As before, we will ensure that equity is at the center of our approach as we work hard to get vaccines to our hardest-hit communities.
I do want to caution parents about one thing, and that is misinformation. Misinformation has been a challenge throughout this pandemic.
And as I have said in the past when I issued a Surgeon General’s Advisory on Health Misinformation, false and misleading information about COVID-19 — misinformation that is often spread on social media, in fact — has led to confusion and has prevented people from benefiting from lifesaving treatments and vaccines.
So please make sure the information you are relying on is coming from trusted sources like your doctor, your local children’s hospital, your department of health, medical associations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the FDA and CDC.
Lastly, I want to emphasize this: Real progress in our vaccination effort has happened when people who are trusted in their communities reach out to their friends, families, neighbors, and community members. And that is what we will need to do now as well: build a people-powered campaign to protect our youngest children.
I want to close by saying to those trusted messengers and, in particular, the pediatricians, family physicians, and nurses out there just how much our nation needs your help right now to make this effort a success as we work to keeping our youngest ones safe.
Whether it is in countering misinformation with accurate, science-based information or helping families find places to get vaccinated, your role could not be more vital right now as it has been throughout this pandemic.
I’m incredibly grateful for all you have done to serve and protect your communities over the last two and a half years.
And with that, let me turn it back to Dr. Jha.
DR. JHA: Thank you, Dr. Murthy. And thank you, Dawn. Let’s now open it up for questions. And to Kevin, do you want to call on folks to ask their questions?
MR. MUNOZ: Yes, thank you. We have time for a few questions. Let’s go to Joyce Frieden at MedPage Today.
Q Yeah. Hi, can you hear me? Hello?
MR. MUNOZ: Yes. Hi, Joyce.
Q Can you — okay. Hi. Hi, everybody. My question is about the money. I’m interested in how much doing all this is costing. And also, you know, previously, the President had talked about there maybe not being enough money for vaccines later on if, you know, Congress didn’t act and so forth. So I’m wondering how that might impact this effort.
DR. JHA: Sure. I’m happy to start it and then see if Ms. O’Connell has anything else to add.
Look, the good news is, because of prior funding from Congress, we have secured enough vaccines and we have the resources to get these vaccines out to the American people. We’ve been very clear that because of those resources, we can get every child who wants to be vaccinated, every parent who wants to vaccinate their kid vaccinated now. We have the resources to do this this summer.
The challenge — the resource challenge, the money challenge you’ve been hearing about from me, from others, is really about what’s going to happen in the fall. We do not have enough resources for the — to have enough vaccines for every American for the next generation of vaccines.
So the challenges are coming up in the fall. We need the money now. But the money we’re using for kids’ vaccines today is money that was appropriated previously by Congress.
MR. MUNOZ: All right, next question. Let’s go to Betsy Klein at CNN.
Q Hey, can you —
DR. JHA: Yes, we can hear you now. Or not. (Laughter.)
DR. MURTHY: Betsy, we can —
Q Hi. Sorry about that. Just to follow up on COVID funding, can — Dr. Jha, if you could give us an update on whether the last month you’ve had meetings on Capitol Hill, if that’s borne any fruit, and whether there’s been any congressional reaction on your end to some of the funding reallocations you announced yesterday.
DR. JHA: Yeah. So let’s take a step back and talk about the kinds of decisions we are having to make. What you heard yesterday was us making a series of very painful decisions, taking resources away from what we think are vital programs to make sure that we’re at the table when it comes to purchasing the next generation of vaccines, to make sure that we have enough therapeutics for Americans so — as we get into the fall and winter.
These are very, very difficult choices. These are not — this is not where we should be in the pandemic. We have been making — we’ve been communicating this very clearly to Congress. I’ve been meeting with members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, in the House and Senate.
And I think members of Congress that I’ve been meeting with and speaking with understand the situation we are in. So we’ve got to keep making this point clear.
But let me just say one more thing. Because of the delay that Congress has not acted, we are losing our place in line in terms of our ability to get vaccines and therapeutics out to the American people this fall and winter. This is why it’s urgent that Congress act now and get us the resources we need as an administration so we can continue to get the tools we need to protect the American people.
SURGEON GENERAL MURTHY: (Inaudible) add something to that as well?
DR. JHA: Please.
SURGEON GENERAL MURTHY: Betsy, I’m really glad you asked this point. And I would just add to what Dr. Jha said. When I go around the country and talk to people across America about our — where we are in the COVID pandemic, people don’t understand why it is that after incredible progress that we made developing lifesaving vaccines or treatments, after demonstrating that we’re actually able to save lives by making these available to people, we are now suddenly halting, when it comes to funding, the ongoing availability of these lifesaving treatments and tests.
It doesn’t make sense to people, and I think that’s because it doesn’t make sense. It’s because we learned in prior public health emergencies that when we fail to sustain our attention and funding to public health interventions, the cost of that failure can be measured in illness incurred and lives lost.
This is a choice. You know, it is not inevitable that we — you know, that we don’t have funding and that we don’t make these treatments and tests available. It’s a choice. And my hope is that we can — and our collective hope is that we can make the choice, work together with Congress to get that funding — because, again, we are in a much better place in this pandemic than we were, but we are not done with the pandemic. The virus is still here, and we’re reminded that, you know, each day. You know, and we look at the folks who are getting infected; we’re still losing several hundred people a day to this virus.
So we’ve got to keep going. This is not the time to take our focus off the pandemic.
DR. JHA: Thank you, Vivek. And I’m just going to add one more quick thing to this, which is a point that I think often gets lost and it’s really the point that Dr. Murthy was making. We are in a better place in this pandemic because we’re using these tools — right? — because we’re — we have vaccines, because we’re using therapeutics.
And so there’s a sense that some people have that, “Oh, because we’re in a better place, we don’t have to fund this anymore.” It’s actually quite the opposite. We’ve demonstrated that we can get us — we can get the country to a better place. It’s particularly important that we keep and sustain that effort to get us through the rest of this pandemic.
MR. MUNOZ: Thanks, both. Let’s go to Adrianna Rodriguez at USA Today.
Q Hi, thank you so much for holding this briefing and for taking my question. Another question on COVID funding. It seems to be popular this morning. I was wondering if we could talk about maybe the thought process behind some of those difficult decisions that were mentioned, specifically the one to reallocate funding from testing and protective equipment to vaccines. What was, I guess, the thought process behind going there?
DR. JHA: Dawn, do you want to take it?
MS. O’CONNELL: I’m happy to start, absolutely.
So as has been noted already this morning, each of these decisions has been challenging; none of them are ideal. And they all require using funds that we were planning to spend on other critical programs.
We looked across all six supplemental bills that we’ve received funding with and are pulling funds from each of those bills. One of the — to look at the legally available funding for the purchase of the vaccines that Dr. Jha mentioned — the Paxlovid and then the monoclonal that we’re purchasing in these next few weeks.
Not all the funds that are out there are available to be used for those purchases. So we looked at all the legally available funds, and we landed on some very difficult decisions. We’re going to give up domestic testing capacity, something that you all know we worked so hard to build through Delta and Omicron. We’re also not going to be able to do out-year support for the PPE warehousing and supplies that we’ve worked so hard to build.
And it is challenging for us to think about taking a step backwards in that way. We’ve come so far in these two years, thanks to the support of Congress. And now having to make these challenging decisions is going to set us back. We hope to continue to work with our partners in Congress to continue to move forward and to not have to make any more of these difficult decisions.
DR. JHA: And I will add: One of the urgencies of this — and we’ve been saying this to Congress for the last couple of months — is that we are starting to lose our place in line; that other countries are negotiating contracts with these companies to purchase the next generation of vaccines.
The idea that America would not have the next generation of vaccines available to any American, we thought, was unacceptable. And so we have pulled enough funds that we can be at the negotiating table and begin to — begin to negotiate so that we don’t fall further behind in line.
Let me be very clear: We do not have enough resources to make sure that every American who wants one of the next generation of vaccines will be able to get one. That part is clear to us. But we needed to be at the negotiating table. And waiting longer, waiting for Congress no longer felt like an acceptable option. And that’s why we pulled the funds that Ms. O’Connell talked about.
MR. MUNOZ: Let’s go to Mike Stobbe at the Associated Press.
Q Great. Hi, thank you. Thank you for taking my question. This question came up before, but I don’t think I understand the answer.
Assuming that both the Pfizer and Moderna shots are authorized and recommended, will parents get to choose which vaccine their child gets? How will they do that? Will there be a federal resource that will tell them where the Moderna shots are and the Pfizer shots are? If you could help parents understand how they could do that. Thank you.
DR. JHA: Dawn, any thoughts on that?
MS. O’CONNELL: So we’re now not in the position of presupposing what the FDA and CDC are going to authorize and recommend. But in planning for the potential authorization of both, we’re making both vaccines available in equal numbers during our preordering phase, and we’ll continue to provide equal numbers as states would like them.
DR. JHA: Any other thoughts on that, Vivek?
SURGEON GENERAL MURTHY: Well, I would just say, Mike, to your question also — I mean about how parents are going to make this decision: That will depend in part on the FDA and CDC process that unfolds over the next few days. They will be, you know, looking at the data very closely, and we will also be looking for their recommendations to help parents — help guide parents in their decisions about which vaccine to choose.
MR. MUNOZ: Let’s go Shannon Pettypiece at NBC News.
Q I have a question on the vaccine for kids. But real quick, just to make sure we’re clear on the funding: Do you expect there — is there more money from the previously allocated COVID funds that you could reach into to get more vaccines for the fall? It sounds like you’re saying that this money you’ve reallocated so far gets you started, but it’s not going to be enough for the vaccines to be widely available in the fall. So is there any more money that you think you could reallocate to get additional vaccines for the fall if Congress doesn’t come through?
And then, yeah, I have a follow-up about the questions — about the vaccine for kids real quick, too.
DR. JHA: Any thoughts on that?
MS. O’CONNELL: So we’re looking under every couch cushion to see what is available. And what we’ve made available yesterday with that announcement about the $5 billion is what we’re able to put towards the vaccine negotiation right now. We certainly hope that we can work with Congress in the coming weeks to, you know, receive additional funds to be able to purchase more doses. But at this point, we’re not in a position to guarantee that we’ll be able to do that with remaining funds.
DR. JHA: Yeah, the only thing I will add is: These were incredibly painful decisions. If you’ve, you know, certainly tracked the work of this administration, listened to us for last couple of years, we believe deeply in widespread availability of testing. To cut back on funding — to pull funds from testing availability, to lose funds for domestic testing manufacturing — these were incredibly difficult decisions.
And so, you know, the bottom line here is: These are not the tradeoffs that we should be having to make at this point in the pandemic. We shouldn’t have to choose between testing and vaccines. We should be able to do both. We can do both, but we do need Congress to step up and be a partner in this effort.
All right, you had a question about kids under five, I think, as well.
Q Yeah. Do you guys — I know you’re going to do everything you can to get as many kids vaccinated in this age group as possible. Do you expect the adoption rate to be similar to the 5- to 11-year-olds, where I think the numbers are around a third of 5- to 11-year-olds who have gotten their first doses. Do expect it to be higher, lower with this youngest age group?
DR. JHA: Well, let me start off with a couple of thoughts on this, and then I’d love Dr. Murthy to talk about it as well.
Two things. First is: Our job, first and foremost, is to make sure that these vaccines are widely available and highly accessible. That is — that is number one. We’ve got to make sure that happens.
Again, all of this, and everything we’re talking about today, is with the assumption that FDA and CDC authorize these. So let’s set that aside. That’s going to be the critical part.
Assuming they do, first and foremost, we’re going to make sure that in the — in the days and weeks that follow any CDC recommendation, we make these vaccines widely available, highly accessible so that parents can get their kids vaccinated.
Now, second important point is: If you go back to December of 2020 and look at surveys that were done of adults, about a third of adults said they would go out and get vaccinated right away. What we know now is about 80 percent of adults have gotten at least one shot.
A reminder that these things take time, that vaccine confidence builds over time. It builds with trusted voices, physicians, faith leaders, others helping people get vaccinated. This is not a one-and-done, this is not an automatic. That’s what we have seen for kids 12 and above. We’re continuing to see that with kids 5 to 11. And we expect that to be an ongoing journey for kids under five.
So, I remain very optimistic that we’re going to get more and more children vaccinated and protected over time. But we don’t have any internal targets of what that number should look like after a week or after three weeks or after a month.
DR. MURTHY: Yeah, no, I certainly agree with Dr. Jha on this. And, you know, if you look at the past, like Dr. Jha was saying, the things that have actually increased people’s confidence in getting vaccinated is when the FDA and CDC weigh in, look at the data, and make that data publicly available, and then weigh in with a recommendation. When people see their friends and family members getting vaccinated, that also helps. And when people can have conversations with their doctors, with their friends and family, that also helps to increase their comfort with getting vaccinated.
What we are going to do in this vaccination effort is build on all of the lessons that we have learned over the last 18 months to make sure that we are getting parents the information that they need to make a decision for their kids, but also to make sure they have as much access as possible to these vaccines — that they can get them easily in pharmacies, in children’s hospitals, in pediatricians’ offices, and in other locations around the country.
But our lessons from the past have taught us that in addition to us speaking directly to the public, that our partnerships — partnerships we built over the last 18 months — are going to be critical here — partnerships with doctors and nurses, with faith leaders, with educators, and with community organizations across the country.
This is why we built the COVID-19 Community Corps to begin with in the spring of 2021. It’s why we’ve continued to engage with that community. And it’s why we’re calling the broader community to action right now to make sure parents have accurate information, that they don’t fall prey to misinformation that’s out there but they have the right information so they can make the best decisions for their kids.
DR. JHA: Kevin, back to you.
MR. MUNOZ: Just a couple more questions. Let’s go to Jeannie Baumann at Bloomberg. Hey, Jeannie, can — might be on mute. All right, Jeannie, we will come back to you.
Let’s go to Nate Weixel at the Hill.
Q Hi, thanks. A question about supply. You know, it seems like there’s going to be 10 million doses initially. Is there a plan B if only one gets authorized, in terms of what’s going to be available to states? Thanks.
DR. JHA: Dawn, thoughts?
MS. O’CONNELL: Thank — thank you for that good question. So we do have 10 million available across both vaccines, and we’re not in a position to pre-judge what the FDA and CDC are going to decide.
And so, we’ll continue to make both vaccines available in our preordering phase accordingly. Should we end up with only one vaccine authorized, which we’re not anticipating or pre-judging whether that might happen, we will adjust supply accordingly. But at this point, it has been our goal to have both of these vaccines available and preordering.
You know, we’re really lucky to have two good options being considered by FDA and CDC next week, and we’ll continue to prepare as if both will be recommended and authorized.
MR. MUNOZ: Jeannie, I’m just checking if you’re able to speak.
Q Hi, can you hear me now?
MR. MUNOZ: Hi, Jeannie.
Q Hi. Sorry about that. I was just wondering how this rollout is different from the 5- to 11-year-old vaccine rollout, or if it is, what the distinction is.
DR. JHA: Well, I’ll start off, because I was not in this role during the 5 to 11-year-olds. So I — what I know — and then, again, my colleagues here were, so I’d love to hear from them.
One thing that I think is going to be different is, you know, while we are going to make this widely available across a variety of different locations and channels, my suspicion is a lot more parents are going to get their kids vaccinated in physician offices and pediatricians’ and offices of family physicians. So, I think that part will be different.
But — and every time we’ve done a rollout, we have learned from the lessons of the past. We’ve looked at what has worked and not and thought about what are the changes that we need to make so that we’re constantly learning and constantly getting better.
But I wasn’t here for the previous rollout, so I’m going to first turn it to Dawn and then to Vivek to see if you have any more specific reflections.
MS. O’CONNELL: Absolutely. Thank you. Just a couple of distinctions that Dr. Jha didn’t mention. One is we didn’t have two vaccines that were both being considered at the same time for the five to elevens. And so, the planning we’ve been talking about, where we’re making and planning for both to be available, is different. And — but one of the things that we know is important for us to be able to provide both, should both be authorized and recommended.
And then just to underscore what Dr. Jha said about the smaller children likely not going into a major pop-up clinic or site or large vaccination center but likely, you know, seeking this vaccine in a pediatrician’s office, a — you know, a family care provider, a pharmacy setting. And so, making sure that we adjust the availability of doses to accommodate the needs of this younger age population.
DR. JHA: Dr. Murthy.
DR. MURTHY: Yeah, and as Dr. Jha said, you know, this — we’re really building on lessons we’ve learned in the past. And one of the key lessons that has come up, especially during our 5 to 11 campaign, is that, you know, parents, understandably, are cautious about the decisions they make when it comes to their children’s healthcare. Sometimes they want to have not one but two or three conversations with somebody they trust.
And so, our goal then is to double, triple down on the relationships and partnerships we’re building with those trusted messengers. So, we’re working even more closely with pediatricians and family medicine doctors. We’re working harder to make sure that parents can get vaccines in sites that they’re comfortable with, like doctors’ offices and their children’s hospital.
So, we’ll continue to do in this, knowing that parents of kids, you know, who have — of under five — and I say this as a parent myself of a four-year-old — they want to be absolutely sure that they’ve got the right information, and sometimes that requires multiple contexts.
So, we’re going to keep working on this. And again, our goal is to make sure that every parent out there of a child under five has the information they need to get their child vaccinated. And we also want to use this as an opportunity, Nate, to make sure that — or Jeannie — to make sure that people who have kids who are over five also take this as an opportunity to remember that getting vaccinated is important as well.
So, if you’re out there and you’ve got a child who’s five years old or above and they haven’t gotten vaccinated yet, or they’re eligible to get boosted and they haven’t gotten boosted yet, please go out there and consider getting your child a shot — because we know that there is still COVID around. We know that kids who are vaccinated are less likely to be hospitalized or end up with severe complications, like the Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome.
So, it’s a step we’re taking. It’s why I got my five-year-old vaccinated. And it’s why when a vaccine is available for kids under five, I will be in line with my four-year-old to get her vaccinated as well.
MR. MUNOZ: Last question, let’s go to Cheyenne Haslett with ABC News.
Q Hi, thank you. I’m wondering when you will need funding to be able to reverse the stoppage of the domestic manufacturing on testing and if you’re still asking for $22.5 billion, even though you’ve now moved some funds around.
DR. JHA: Let me start, and I’d love to hear Dawn’s thoughts on this. The domestic manufacturing of testing issues really — it’s really very unfortunate because we — the U.S. government put in a lot of effort and resources into building up that domestic manufacturing. And what we’re seeing is, day by day, week by week, that beginning to go away.
Companies, because the demand has fallen for these tests, are laying off workers. They’re shutting down production lines. And in some cases, they’re se- — they’ve — in the past — and they’re going to likely do this again — selling off their equipment.
So, if we get more resources down the road, we will be able to reverse some of it. It will be more expensive. It will be difficult. If we do not get these resources now and we find ourselves in a surge without enough tests, we will largely rely on foreign manufacturers, mostly from China, to provide the tests that Americans need.
That is not the situation we need to be in. And it is absolutely essential that we continue to have a domestic manufacturing capacity that can produce tests for the American people, both during times when infection numbers are low but particularly so when infection numbers are high. And I think, personally, that it’s hugely problematic that we’re not able to continue doing that because of congressional inaction.
In terms of the resources we need — $22.5 billion has been our request, because what that will do is allow us to get enough vaccines for every American, to make sure that we have enough therapeutics, to make sure that we actually can continue the domestic manufacturing, but just make sure we have enough testing supply.
So those resources are still what are essential. And, of course, the money we’ve taken away — we need to have a PPE national stockpile. It’s unacceptable that, as a country, we are not stockpiling personal protective equipment to protect doctors and nurses. Those are the kinds of choices we are being forced into.
So, yes, the resources that we need are still there to make sure that we are able to continue those efforts.
MS. O’CONNELL: And just to underscore what Dr. Jha said, you know, we would need the money as soon as possible.
One of the lessons we learned last year and have applied during the Omicron surge is when — in the spring of last year, when vaccines were being introduced and tests weren’t as readily available, we didn’t have the over-the-counter tests, a lot of, you know, the companies saw demand drop off, and they let workers go; sold the equipment, as Dr. Jha mentioned; and really downsized. And then we saw Delta, and then we saw Omicron.
And what we also learned was how long it takes for them to hire the employees they need and to ramp up production. And it’s a weeks-to-months process.
We’ve also learned in the course of these two years that this virus is anything but predictable. So for us to lose this capacity again and then be forced to ramp up by hook or by crook in the coming months with a potential variant coming, you know, it’s just not a good place for the country to be. It puts us back to where we were, despite all the effort and all the hard work we’ve invested in this testing manufacturing capacity.
So we, you know, urge Congress to work with us to restore this funding as quickly as possible so we don’t find ourselves flat-footed.
DR. JHA: And let me make one last point on this. It is also fiscally the prudent thing to do. It’s far more expensive to have to rebuild that domestic manufacturing capacity, far more expensive to have to go back and rehire and buy new equipment, and how — and we end up funding and supporting a lot of that effort.
So, from a just pure fiscal prudence point of view, maintaining this capacity, making sure we can tap into it when there is a surge and we need more testing, is really a smart thing to do. Obviously, from a public health point of view, it’s a no-brainer, in terms of protecting the health of the American people. But even financially, it’s much smarter.
So, acting early is clearly the right thing to do. And we’re hoping that Congress steps up and acts much — as quickly as possible so we can move in the right direction.
All right. Kevin, back to you. Are we —
MR. MUNOZ: We’re done.
DR. JHA: All right. Thank you, everybody, for joining us today. And a huge thanks to both Dawn O’Connell, our Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, and Dr. Vivek Murthy, our Surgeon General, for joining us. Thank you both. And thank you for all your questions.
And we look forward to staying engaged and involved and sharing with you all the information we have in the days and weeks ahead as we — as we work to get vaccines out to the last group of Americans who are yet eligible — who have not yet been eligible, to make sure they get protected as well.
Thank you so much. And have a great day, everybody.
11:49 A.M. EDT