Health official on COVID-19: ‘We are in a much better position to respond than we were a year ago’

Public health agencies tell Senate committee that US should prepare for what might happen next

In a U.S. Senate committee hearing Thursday, the leaders of the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other public health agencies told senators that the country should prepare for what might happen next.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – U.S. regulators are poised to green-light COVID-19 vaccine shots for the youngest age group yet -- from those 5 years old to those as young as 6 months old.

The Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisers on Wednesday gave a thumbs-up to vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer for children in that age group. If all the regulatory steps are cleared, shots should be available next week.

These developments come as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says the state will not help distribute shots to young children.

On Thursday, DeSantis reaffirmed his stance Thursday that his administration will not recommend the COVID-19 vaccine for young children despite top medical officials recommending it.

“There’s not going to be any state programs that are going to be trying to, you know, get COVID jabs to infants and toddlers and newborns,” DeSantis said. “That’s not something that we think is appropriate, and so that’s not where we’re going to be utilizing our resources in that regard.”

Meanwhile, in a U.S. Senate committee hearing Thursday, the leaders of the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other public health agencies told senators that the country should prepare for what might happen next.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, is chairwoman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

“The reality is we are already running out of resources to prepare for the fall and we are running out of time to fix that,” Murray said. “We need to continue to support a full, robust response. This is simply too important to scramble again on short notice or short-change our communities.”

Dawn O’Connell, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ assistant secretary for preparedness and response, was among those who spoke at the committee hearing.

“While COVID has been anything but predictable, today, we are in a much better position to respond than we were a year ago,” O’Connell said. “A big reason is because Congress, on a bipartisan basis, provided the resources needed to make sure Americans had these free and widely available tools to protect themselves.”

O’Connell went on to say though that if those resources dry up and are not continued, the country’s public health response to another potential COVID-19 variant will be severely weakened.

According to the CDC, two-thirds of Americans live in a county that’s considered medium to high community levels of COVID-19. Duval County is one of those counties considered medium community transmission. Due to that, certain members of Naval Air Station Jacksonville will have to mask up again.

Also in Duval County, the city of Jacksonville on Thursday announced that the COVID-19 testing and vaccine site at the Joseph Lee Center will be closing at the end of this month.

This comes as the demand for COVID-19 testing decrease.

The reason for the closure: The Duval County health department says it’s shifting focus to providing COVID-19 services to specific areas of town.

The last day to get a COVID-19 test or a vaccine at the Joseph Lee Center is June 30.

And across the state of Florida, there are about 3,200 COVID-19 patients in hospitals. That’s about a 14% increase over one week ago.


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