Biden Gets Updated COVID-19 Booster, Promotes Vaccine

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden rolled up his sleeve and got his updated COVID-19 booster shot Tuesday as he urged millions of people who don’t yet need to get a booster shot to do so by Halloween if possible so they can can safely gather family and friends this holiday season.

“Get vaccinated,” he said, noting that it was free. “Not enough people get it.”

Biden also called on Congress to provide the billions of dollars the government has requested to buy additional vaccines, tests and treatments. Some lawmakers have fought back calls for more than $20 billion in new coronavirus funds.

Biden, flanked by his COVID-19 response team, explained that the fight against the spread of the virus is global in nature and the “funding we are seeking is critical to this effort.”

Over 20 million people, including nearly one in five older adults, have received the updated COVID-19 booster, the White House said. The vaccine was reformulated to target subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 of omicron, the most common strains in the United States.

Biden said more people will need to get the vaccine as winter approaches, and they will spend more time indoors and potentially spread disease. He added that the vaccine is available free of charge within 5 miles of where most people live.

He urged people to get the coronavirus booster at the same time as an annual flu shot. He said a COVID-19 booster is becoming an annual event.

“For most Americans, one COVID shot a year will be all they need,” Biden said at the White House. “And if you get it, you’re protected. And if you don’t, you’re putting yourself and other people at unnecessary risk.”

“I urge all Americans…all Americans to get your needles as soon as you can,” he said.

A member of the White House medical team put the syringe in Biden’s left arm. He had to delay the refresher under federal health guidelines because he contracted COVID-19 over the summer.

Biden again called on businesses, schools and leaders to help, including by conducting on-site immunization clinics and giving employees time off to be empowered. Most deaths from COVID-19 are now preventable, he said.

Three respiratory viruses are currently circulating in the United States: influenza, COVID-19, and RSV, respiratory syncytial virus, said Dr. Ashish Jha, White House lead for COVID-19 response.

Jha said Tuesday the combination of a flu shot and an updated COVID booster will help people avoid serious illness and stay out of the hospital as they prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving and other holidays with friends and family.

“We need everyone to stand up and do their part, it’s literally about saving the lives of tens of thousands of Americans this fall and winter,” he said. “The good news here is that unlike past winters, we are in control.”

RSV has also afflicted children, and there’s no vaccine to treat it, although companies are working to develop one, he said. He said the majority of these cases are rather mild, although this is worrying.

In the meantime, 8 million doses of the antiviral drug Paxlovid have gone to pharmacies and 5.5 million have been administered. Jha said there will be “a lot” for autumn and winter.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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