US health officials say 4.4 million Americans have rolled up their sleeves for the latest COVID-19 booster shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted the count Thursday as public health experts bemoaned President Joe Biden’s recent comment that “the pandemic is over.”

The White House said its estimate of more than 5 million people received new boosters led to reporting delays in states.

Health experts said it was too early to predict whether demand for the 171 million doses of new boosters ordered by the U.S. for the fall would be met.

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“No one is going to look at our flu shot now and be like, ‘Oh, what a disaster,'” said Dr. David Doody, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. We start to see a lot of increase in cases, so I think we’re going to see a lot of people getting the (new COVID) vaccine.”

The temporary shortage of the Moderna vaccine prompted some pharmacies to cancel appointments while encouraging people to reschedule for the Pfizer vaccine. The problem was expected to be resolved as government regulators wound up inspecting and cleaning up vaccine doses for distribution.

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“I expect it to increase in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s Covid-19 coordinator. “We’re thinking and talking about it as an annual vaccine like the flu vaccine. The flu season starts in late September and early October. We’re just continuing our education campaign. So we expect to see that despite the fact that it was a strong start, we actually expect it to get even stronger.

Some Americans who plan to get the shot, which is designed to target the most common Omicron strain, said they are waiting because they either recently had COVID-19 or another Booster. They are following public health advice to wait several months to get the full benefit of their current virus-fighting antibodies.

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Others are scheduling shots around holiday gatherings and the winter months when respiratory viruses spread more easily.

Ryan Dutton, an EMT with Rescue Inc., died on Sept. 20 in Townshend, Vt. I prepare Pfizer booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccine clinic hosted by Rescue Inc. at Leland & Gray Middle and High School. , 2022.

Christopher Reeder / The Brattleboro Reformer via Associated Press

Jenny Murphy, 69, a retired hospital chaplain from Shawnee, Kansas, plans to get a new booster in a few weeks after minor knee surgery. Her neighbors are more than interested in what she sees on the Next Door app.

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“There’s a lot of discussion among people who are willing to make an appointment,” Murphy said. “I found it encouraging. For every liar there would be 10 or 12 people who would jump up and say, ‘You’re crazy. You just need to get a shot.'”

Biden later acknowledged criticism of his comments about the end of the pandemic, clarifying that the pandemic is “not where it was.” The initial comment didn’t faze Murphy. He believes the disease has entered a stable state when “we’ll get COVID shots in the fall just like we get flu shots.”

Experts hope they’re OK, but they’re waiting to see what infection levels come in the winter. The number of cases, hospitalizations and d*aths could see another spike in the summer, Doody said.

A panel of biodefense experts asked Dr. Anthony Fauci on Thursday what still keeps him up at night, noting that half of vaccinated Americans never received the initial booster dose.

“There is a vulnerability in our population that will keep us in a mode of potential disruption of our social order,” Fauci said. “I think we have to do better as a nation.”

Some Americans who have received the new shots said they are excited by the idea of ​​vaccines targeting variants that are now circulating.

“Give me all the science you can,” said Jeff Westling, a 30-year-old attorney in Washington, D.C., who received a new booster and flu shot Tuesday, one in each arm. He participates in the combat sport of jujitsu, so wants to protect himself from infections that can come from close contact. “I have no problem trusting people whose job it is to look at the evidence.”

Meanwhile, Biden’s announcement in a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday resonated on social media.

“We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still very much working on it. But the pandemic is over,” Biden said as he walked through the Detroit auto show. “If you notice, any mask. Not wearing it. Everyone seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think that’s changing.

As of Wednesday on Facebook, when the Kansas Department of Health posted where residents can get the new booster shots, the first commenter scathed:

“But Biden Says Pandemic Is Over.”

Josh McCaud, associate director of global health policy with the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington, said the president’s statement, despite efforts to clarify it, adds to public confusion.

“People aren’t sure when is the right time to motivate. ‘Am I eligible?’ People are often confused about what is the right choice for them, even where to find that information,” said Michaud.

“Anytime you have mixed messages, it’s detrimental to public health efforts,” Michaud said. “Having mixed messages from the president’s remarks makes this task very difficult.”

Jason Salemi, an epidemiologist at the University of South Florida, said he worries that the president’s announcement has taken its toll and could stall prevention efforts.

“That soundbite has been around for a while now, and it’s going to spread like wildfire. And it’s going to give the impression of, ‘Oh, we don’t need to do anything more,'” Salemi said.

“If we’re happy with 400 or 500 people dying from Covid every day, then there’s a problem,” Salemi said. “We can absolutely do better because most of these d*aths, if not all of them, are absolutely preventable with the tools we have.”

New York City photographer Vivian Guqua, 44, got a new booster on Monday. He has had Covid twice, once before a vaccine was available and again in May. He was vaccinated with two Moderna shots, but never received the actual boosters.

“When I saw that the new booster was able to handle the omicron variant I thought, ‘I’m doing it,'” Gucwa said.

“I don’t want to deal with omicron again. I’m so glad to see the boosters updated.

AP Medical Writer Lauren Neergaard and AP White House Correspondent Zeke Miller contributed. ___

The Associated Press Department of Health and Science is supported by the Department of Science Education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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