Former White House COVID Coordinator Dr. Jha: Debate About Boosters for Young People Is OK

Dr. Ashish Jha, the former White House COVID Coordinator, says he expects vaccines updated for this fall will provide a “great deal of protection” but he acknowledges there are questions about whether a young person should get the booster.

“My best read of the literature is that, yes, they should [get the COVID booster shot]. A reasonable person could read the literature and say, ‘I don’t know if that’s true and let’s have that debate.’” Dr. Jha says, unfortunately, that discussion is clouded by what he calls “nonsense and bad information” that causes confusion and ends up harming people. The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are expected to soon approve the new shots.

Dr. Jha, making his fifth appearance on the syndicated interview program “Conversations on Health Care,” also addressed the lingering mystery about COVID’s origins. “Anyone who tells you for sure they know exactly how it started probably is trying to sell you something. Early in 2020 my view was that it was more likely than not a natural origin [as opposed to a lab leak]. I still believe, and maybe I’m one the few people out there who does, that we can get to the bottom of this but we need a lot more transparency from China.”

Dr. Jha has returned to his role as dean at Brown University School of Public Health. He spoke to hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter as “Conversations on Health Care,” a production of Moses/Weitzman Health System, Inc., marked its 14th season.


Dr. Fauci Tells “Conversations on Health Care” On Location at Aspen Ideas: We Need More COVID Booster Shots

Dr. Anthony Fauci shared a sobering message with “Conversations on Health Care”: In the past year about 20% of Americans have received the COVID booster vaccine; “that’s not good if you really want to get a degree of immunity that you can lift up,” he says. Fauci explains that getting to 50% should be the goal.

“What we’re hoping is that people who come in with the uptake of a flu vaccine would also come in…at the same time, the same day…[get the] COVID [one]. The new vaccine is not going to be a bivalent, it’s going to be a monovalent Omicron derivative.” The fall 2023 COVID vaccine is currently awaiting FDA approval.

Fauci also reflected on the tense relationship between China and the United States. “The more we make accusations and the more we push against them, the more they pull back and in order to be able to have the kind of broad, global surveillance, global cooperation, global collaboration, you’ve got to have a relationship the way we had before COVID.” He also acknowledged that the Chinese have been very obtuse and secretive.

Fauci, speaking at Aspen Ideas: Health, harkened back to the bipartisan creation two decades ago of the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which is credited with saving 25 million lives in under-resourced countries.

Fauci also shared that he’s making progress on his memoir, with a manuscript due by the end of the year and an expected publish date by the first half of 2024.

He was interviewed by “Conversations on Health Care” hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter; they’re grateful to Aspen Ideas: Health leaders for inviting the program to hold one-on-one interviews during the gathering.

THURSDAY, MAY 18, 2023

Reaction to New CDC Ventilation Targets in Light of COVID

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just updated its ventilation guidance on helping prevent indoor transmission of the virus that causes COVID. It includes a recommendation to get at least five air changes per hour of clean air in occupied spaces.

Dr. Joseph G. Allen and other experts have been advocating for this guidance even before the pandemic. He’s the associate professor and director of the Healthy Buildings Program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Dr. Allen tells “Conversations on Health Care,” that “Making indoor air healthier came into the mainstream during the COVID-19 pandemic. New ventilation targets from the CDC are a key advancement of that work and are a historic public health achievement that can help normalize health-based indoor air quality standards. This new guidance can help mitigate indoor transmission of viruses like SARS-CoV-2 and influenza, and also help against other airborne hazards such as wildfire smoke and allergens.”

Hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter talked to Dr. Allen last year and we’re sharing the episode again to highlight these important issues.