CHICAGO (WLS) -- U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy visited the Chicago area Tuesday. He shared his thoughts on booster shots and the mental health of frontline workers in an exclusive interview with Eyewitness News.
Murthy spent his morning touring UIC hospital and the Mile Square Health Center, where even the nation's top doctor got a temperature check. Besides ending the pandemic, Murthy said one of his biggest concerns is burnout rates among COVID frontline health care workers.
"We know it's been a very stressful pandemic for them, so I came here to hear directly from them about their stories, how it's been, how they are coping and what they need," Murthy said.
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As a key member of the White House COVID response team, Murthy defended the Biden administration's August announcement about boosters for all Americans beginning Sept 20. Many healthcare experts called the decision premature before the FDA or CDC acted. Murthy said the announcement was for transparency and planning.
"We knew to coordinate with cities and states and private organizations that were instrumental in rolling out the first part of the vaccine campaign that would require time, organize the effort," Murthy said.
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Murthy said the administration is ready to roll out boosters as soon as the FDA and CDC officially sign off, which is expected later this week. But the recommendation for 65 years and above and for people at risk of severe disease is more narrow than what the administration announced last month.
"We wanted to be prepared for every eventuality, but we are very happy the process is playing out as it should," Murthy said.
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Murthy said the administration is also encouraged about the news from Pfizer saying its vaccine is safe for 5 to 11-year-olds.
"I'm optimistic we will have a vaccine for kids and under before the end of the calendar year, but there are still several steps that need to take place," Murthy said.
The surgeon general's visit to the Chicago area coincided with a COVID milestone: according to the CDC, the virus has now killed more than 675,000 Americans, surpassing the death toll of the 1918 Spanish flu.
US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy discusses booster shots, health care worker burnout in Chicago
Eyewitness News Exclusive