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White House official says he’s still optimistic about Covid aid despite GOP objections

President Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator said Thursday he remains optimistic that Congress will approve billions of dollars in new emergency aid to fight Covid, even though Republicans on Capitol Hill have made it clear that the aid program was practically dead.

“I am an eternal optimist,” coordinator Dr. Ashish K. Jha told reporters during a White House briefing. “I remain convinced that Congress is not going to walk away at this point in the pandemic, when we have made so much progress.”

But while Dr. Jha may be an optimist, the mood among Senate Republicans is pessimistic; some even claim the White House lied to them earlier this spring when officials said that without new help, the administration would have no money to buy vaccines and antiviral drugs. More recently, the White House said it was taking money from other programs to buy drugs and injections.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are engrossed in a bipartisan package of gun safety legislation and eager to get out of town for the impending Fourth of July holiday. Approval of Covid-19 aid is not on the immediate agenda.

Dr. Jha’s remarks came as the Biden administration focuses on rolling out coronavirus vaccines for newly eligible children as young as 6 months old. He said the White House had so far delivered more than four million doses of the pediatric vaccine for children in that age group, but the administration would not know how many doses had been administered until next week. . The Pfizer-BioNTech protocol for the very young requires three injections, while Moderna’s requires two.

One concern is whether vaccines, which have often been given in pharmacies, will be as readily available to very young children as to other age groups. A federal law, the Public Preparedness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP), has been amended to allow pharmacists to administer Covid vaccines only to people age 3 or older.

At the same time, many parents may be hesitant to get their young children vaccinated at pharmacies, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They “want to take their young children to where they get their regular shots, whether it’s their local community health center or their local pediatrician,” she added.

For these reasons, administration officials say they have gone to great lengths to recruit pediatricians into the childhood immunization program.

Dr. Jha, Dr. Walensky and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Mr. Biden’s top medical adviser for the pandemic, used Thursday’s briefing to promote childhood vaccinations.

“The known and potential benefits clearly outweigh the known and potential risks in this pediatric population,” said Dr. Fauci, who is recovering from his own battle with coronavirus, adding: “We are all very excited about the idea of ​​having your children vaccinated.

Dr Walensky spoke directly to parents: “The most important thing you can do is get your child vaccinated, get your family vaccinated, and that will give you and your family the maximum protection and allow you to not be at risk of serious illness. ”

And Dr Fauci, 81, attributed his resilience more than a week after testing positive – “I feel really good” – to being vaccinated and doubly boosted, saying he saw himself as ” an example, given my age, of what we all talk about today.

“And I believe that if it wasn’t,” he said, referring to having received a full set of vaccines and boosters, “I most likely wouldn’t be speaking to you as well as I am, I think, right now.”


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