WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – As we head into the colder months, when people will be gathering more often indoors, health and government officials have a message: get the latest coronavirus vaccine.

Officials say less than 5% of Americans have gotten the latest coronavirus vaccine and health experts are concerned as new subvariants begin to spread.

“The challenge with holiday seasons, every year, is it’s also a time where contagious respiratory viruses like influenza, RSV and, again this year, COVID spread much more quickly,” White House COVID Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha explained.

The White House is monitoring several omicron subvariants that are evolving rapidly around the world, but officials say the latest Bivalent COVID-19 vaccine should offer protection.

“What happens in the weeks and months ahead will have a large impact on how the winter goes,” Dr. Jha said.

Dr. Jha says a new study indicates that as many as 90,000 lives could be saved and 1 million hospitalizations prevented if most eligible Americans get the new COVID shots.

“We really want to rev up the urgency, this is going to be a critical piece of protection as we enter the winter months,” Assistant White House Press Secretary Kevin Munoz explained.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, with Johns Hopkins, says part of the problem has been mixed messaging.

“People were kind of muddled in their messaging on who needs a booster, who benefits from a booster, what a booster is used for. That has led to a lack of enthusiasm,” Dr. Adalja said.

But the White House says the message is simple as Dr. Jha explains, “don’t wait, get your new flu shot, get your new COVID shot today. If Americans did that, we could save hundreds of lives each day this winter.”

Health officials say they are expecting a bad 2022 flu season as people have dropped many of the precautions they were taking for COVID like masking.

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