Local infectious disease specialist responds after President Biden declares pandemic ‘over’

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Just a few days ago, President Joe Biden said the Covid-19 pandemic was over in the United States. He has since backed off a bit from his original comment. Meanwhile, health officials continue to urge everyone to get vaccinated, and boosted.

News10NBC spoke to one local infectious disease specialist about why getting an additional booster shot is so important.

Rochester Regional Health’s Dr. Emil Lesho says the new booster shot is more specific to the current circulating strains of the virus, and therefore it will offer better protection.

“Up until now all the vaccine shots, all the booster shots have contained the original strains of the virus, and since the original strain came out back in 2020, 2019 in some parts of the world the virus has mutated and changed significantly,” said Lesho.

He says the pandemic is still here, and doctors are still seeing covid patients on a regular basis.

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“You know several hundred people every day in the United States continue to die from covid,” said Lesho.

There is some good news to report. Lesho says the rate of increase in both new cases, and hospitalizations continues to drop thanks to vaccines, and new booster shots.

“The advantage of the new booster, it’s specific to the most common, most current circulating virus you hear. The BA.4, BA.5 variant. So that’s why they’re suggesting that and I agree,” said Lesho.

Public health officials are predicting that we may see a spike in new cases during the upcoming winter months, especially as more people spend time indoors.

“For example in the southern hemisphere in New Zealand, and Australia they just finished their flu season, and we look at what happened there to predict what’s going to happen here in the United States. Most of the time it mirrors it fairly closely,” said Lesho.

We also asked Dr. Lesho about the shortage of Moderna booster shots that are being reported by some pharmacies.

“It’s not that big a deal because we’ve learned that you can mix and match the various brands. So for example if you got a Moderna, and you got a Pfizer booster that’s fine. If you got Pfizer, and you got a Moderna booster that’s fine,” said Lesho.

We also reached out to Governor Kathy Hochul’s office about the pandemic. She recently said, “As New Yorkers, we have one shared goal, that is to get through this together. Put an end to this era. It’s been long. It’s been painful, and New Yorkers have done an extraordinary job, and I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done to help us go from the depths of despair.”

Her office also says it has no plans to make any changes to ongoing Covid-19 regulations right now.