WASHINGTON – A top White House aide made his pitch for young people to get vaccinated personal on Tuesday, sharing the struggles his son has experienced since contracting COVID-19 last fall.
Andy Slavitt, President Joe Biden's senior adviser for the coronavirus, revealed during a White House briefing that one of his sons came down with the virus late last year and continues to suffer lingering side effects. He used it to appeal to younger Americans to roll up their sleeves, even if they feel they're at relatively lower risk than older Americans to serious consequences from the virus.
“Unfortunately, he is one of the many Americans battling long-term symptoms," Slavitt said of his son, who is in his late teens. “He’s young and fit and in the prime of his life. But six months later, he still suffers from tachycardia, shortness of breath, and ongoing and frequent flu-like symptoms. His hands are cold to the touch. "
“Many young people are in this situation, and many, many have it worse," Slavitt added.
Not much is known about what has come to be known as “long COVID.”
“We’re faced with a mystery,” Dr. Francis Collins, chief of the National Institutes of Health, said in March, as his agency kicked off additional studies to learn more about the condition and study potential treatments.
Researchers are hoping to learn whether it is a condition unique to COVID-19, or just a variation of the syndrome that can occur after other infections. They're examining how many people are affected, and how long it lasts, and whether it's possible that the source isn't COVID-19 at all.
Meanwhile, Slavitt said that the surest way for young Americans to avoid a similar fate is to get vaccinated themselves.
“I know it's easy when you're young to imagine that these things don't affect you, a vaccine may feel unnecessary, you feel healthy, you know people who had COVID and they're doing alright," he said, adding. "But we are still learning about the long-term effects of COVID.”
White House officials pointed to Slavitt’s story as an example of how the administration is adjusting its message to encourage Americans to get vaccinated, with a focus on personal stories and relying on the influence of local community leaders to combat the slowing pace of shots.
“These vaccinations are essential," Slavitt added. “However, if you are unvaccinated, you are at risk, regardless of your age. According to the CDC, more than 3 million kids under 17 have contracted COVID-19."