The Media and I: The Current State Of The COVID-19 Pandemic

By Henry I. Miller, MS, MD — Jan 25, 2024
In this radio conversation, John Batchelor and I discuss the effectiveness of vaccines and the challenges posed by new variants of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) such as the now-dominant JN.1.
Image by Michi S from Pixabay

The new booster, available since September, is effective against the currently dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant in the U.S., JN.1. John expressed concern, which I share, about low COVID vaccination rates: Only 19% of eligible Americans have received the new booster. I attribute the high daily cases -- around 2 million -- to people not adequately protecting themselves, which emphasizes the importance of staying updated on vaccines, wearing a mask in high-risk situations, and practicing social distancing. The virus continues to mutate, and there's no guarantee that current or future boosters will protect against all variants.  Inevitably, we end up "chasing" new variants, hoping that our vaccines are effective.

Omicron variant JN.1 is significantly different from previous strains, and infection by earlier variants do not provide strong immunity against it. This explains the frequent reinfections that are now being observed.

Our conversation shifted to Paxlovid, the two-drug combination for treating COVID-19 symptoms within the first five days of the onset of symptoms. It is effective in reducing severe symptoms and the length of illness, as well as having the, potential to lower the incidence of Long COVID, the persistence of signs and symptoms after the acute infection (or even the emergence of new signs, symptoms or organ damage). However, physicians are not recommending it often enough, possibly due to limited awareness and concerns about potential drug-drug interactions.

John questioned the communication efforts of national leadership, including the Surgeon General, HHS Secretary, CDC Director, and FDA Director. I criticized their lack of effective communication, e.g.,  President Biden's recent speech at a South Carolina church, at which attendees were not required to wear masks, highlighting a failure to send a crucial message about safety measures. We ended with a brief discussion on the differences among COVID-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).


You can hear the entire interview here.

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Henry I. Miller, MS, MD

Henry I. Miller, MS, MD, is the Glenn Swogger Distinguished Fellow at the American Council on Science and Health. His research focuses on public policy toward science, technology, and medicine, encompassing a number of areas, including pharmaceutical development, genetic engineering, models for regulatory reform, precision medicine, and the emergence of new viral diseases. Dr. Miller served for fifteen years at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in a number of posts, including as the founding director of the Office of Biotechnology.

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