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The new vaccine mandates and enforcement actions President Biden announced Thursday in an address from the White House should help in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, but even more likely is needed, according to a prominent vaccinologist.
Among several new initiatives aimed at stemming the tide of COVID-19, Biden announced that many of the nation’s employers — covering some 80 million US workers — will have to begin requiring their workers get vaccinated or produce regular negative COVID tests.
“Well, Chuck, when you have a virus agent that this transmissible, it is not either/or, we have to do everything,” Dr Peter Hotez director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development and Texas Children’s Hospital endowed chair in tropical pediatrics, and university professor of biology at Baylor University, said in an on-air interview with MSNBC host Chuck Todd. “And what we really have to do is have vaccine mandates in schools. We should have a rule that anyone who walks into a school over the age of 12 has to be vaccinated, in addition to wearing a mask. Otherwise we’ve already seen what happens in the south here when we don’t do that, schools attempt to open and then they have to shutter after a couple of weeks because there’s too much COVID transmission.
“This is the overwhelming problem that the Biden administration is facing with the 80 million unvaccinated, and of those, you have 100,000 now between May and now who’ve lost their lives. Those are almost all unvaccinated,” Dr Hotez added. “And the projections are another 100,000 will lose their lives. And 100,000 hospitalizations a day, that’s absolutely overwhelming our health system. So the central question is this, really, Chuck: How far can federal mandates take us to chip away at those 80 million? And I think it can have some impact, but it is still not going to be enough. There has to be a parallel plan in place.”
There are specific areas where the Biden administration could be doing even more, according to a well-known public health expert.
“You know, 3,000 kids, 2,500 kids are getting hospitalized every week from COVID. This is not where we should be as a country at this point in this pandemic when we have all of the tools to defeat the pandemic,” said Dr Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.
“You know, people talk about vaccine mandates. I really think of them as creating safe work and school environments and they’re absolutely essential. I want to hear more about testing and how we’ll ramp up testing. This has been a tool that we have underused as a country for the entire pandemic,” Dr Jha said in a separate interview. “I think the Biden administration could have — and should have — been doing more before and I would like to hear the president talk about testing.
“I want to hear about how the president and the federal government will help those local districts that are making local decisions about masking and are getting pressure from the federal government,” he added. “There’s a lot we need to hear from the president. This is an important moment. The country has all the tools to defeat the pandemic, and I think we all want to hear a very clear plan on how we’re going to use those tools to get America back on its feet and our hospitals open and people protected.”
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