President Biden on Tuesday urged Americans to seek out updated COVID booster shots, as he received his own dose at a White House event.
Mr. Biden, who was joined by top federal health officials and the leaders of some of nation’s largest pharmacy chains, also touted an array of new efforts announced by the companies to accelerate shots and curb the virus.
“We’re here with a simple message: get vaccinated. Update your COVID vaccine. It’s incredibly effective, but the truth is not enough people are getting it. We’ve got to change that so we can all have a safe and healthy holiday season,” the president said.
His remarks come as federal figures have tracked the pace of new shots beginning to stall nationwide, after weeks of accelerating.
CDC figures last week estimated that more than 19 million Americans have gotten an updated COVID booster shot so far. That works out to around 9% of the up to 226 million Americans who are eligible for the boosters.
The updated boosters targeting two subvariants of Omicron, which are the most dominant strains in the U.S., began rolling out in the fall. The Biden administration launched a new ad campaign this month to promote the shots.
Early data testing the updated boosters against the BA.5 variant, which have not yet been peer-reviewed, suggest they produce at least similar antibody responses to the original formulation of the shots.
Every vaccinated American who is at least 5 years old is eligible to receive an updated booster shot this fall, as long as their last shot of COVID vaccine was at least two months ago.
The president’s latest shot comes roughly three months after he tested positive for the virus over the summer. The CDC says Americans recently infected by the virus can wait three months after catching COVID-19 before getting the booster.
Mr. Biden also echoed a plea from White House COVID response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha, who joined him for the remarks, urging Americans to get their coronavirus boosters and annual flu shot before Halloween.
“Now is the time to do it. By Halloween, if you can, that’s the best time. And that way you can be protected for the holidays. And please, while you’re at it, get the flu shot,” the president said.
As part of the new efforts cited by Mr. Biden, Walgreens announced it would work with Uber and DoorDash to deliver prescriptions of Paxlovid for free for Americans living in underserved communities. The president also called on schools and colleges to host at least one vaccination clinic by Thanksgiving and push employers to continue offering paid time-off for their workers to get vaccinated.
“As a country, we have a choice to make. Can we repeat what happened in the past winters, more infections, more hospitalizations, more loved ones getting sick, even dying from the virus? Or can we have a much better winter, if we use all — all — the tools we have available to us,” said Mr. Biden.
The federal government recently extended its paid leave policies to accommodate federal workers and their families getting the updated COVID booster while on the clock.
The Department of Health and Human Services will also launch a vaccine tour on Wednesday designed to urge families to get the updated shots, which will include pop-up vaccination events, according to the White House.
One pop-up clinic is expected at the NASCAR Cup Series Championship in Arizona, which dovetails with the Biden administration’s efforts to target regions with lower vaccine uptake.
The department will roll out new national and local television, radio and print ads that aim to reach Black and Latino audiences in more than 30 markets, as well as new football and country music-themed ads to reach rural communities in 15 local markets. The Biden administration’s push also includes social and digital ads on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat and Reddit.
President Biden also renewed his call for Congress to take up his long-stalled funding request for the COVID response.
“Some of our friends in Congress say we don’t need COVID funding, or they say they say there’s really no reason that the government should be paying for it. I strongly disagree,” the president said.
President Biden’s remarks earlier this year to “60 Minutes” that the COVID pandemic is “over” have been cited by Republicans over recent weeks in criticizing the White House’s ask for more money to combat the virus.
Mr. Biden said Tuesday that COVID remained a “global health emergency.”
“If you really want to put COVID behind us, we have to keep up the fight together. We can’t leave people to face it alone,” Mr. Biden added.