“You can roll your sleeves up, all come up if you want,” said President Joe Biden Tuesday as he prepared to get his latest COVID-19 vaccine shot. He urged all Americans to get theirs too.
“I’m here today with my COVID team, as well as leaders from some of America’s top pharmacies: Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, Albertsons,” Biden said. “And we’re here with a simple message: Get vaccinated. Update… your COVID vaccine.”
Biden also remarked that “not enough people are getting,” the updated vaccine boosters recently made available. These boosters have been specifically formulated to protect against the omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, now the dominant variant causing COVID-19 infections.
According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data updated last Wednesday, not even half of Americans had received a booster dose and even fewer people had received a second booster dose. Overall, around 68% of the U.S. population – roughly 226.6 million people – have completed their primary vaccination series.
“It’s incredibly effective,” said Biden of the newest booster, adding that Americans should get it to make sure the nation gets through the holiday season safely as weather gets colder in many regions and people spend more time indoors. Although COVID-19 cases are down since the height of the pandemic, he reminded people that cases have been increasing in Europe this fall.
For the week ending Oct. 16, “increases continued to be observed across all epidemiological indicators although they appear to be slowing down,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said last Thursday.
“We still have hundreds of people dying each day from COVID in this country – hundreds,” said Biden. “That number is likely to rise this winter. But this year is different from the past. This year, nearly every death is preventable. Let me say it again: Nearly every death is preventable.”
White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha also said Tuesday that COVID-19 is likely to spread more easily during winter, along with other viruses such as the flu and RSV.
“But the great news here is that, unlike past winters, we are in control,” he said. “We have the tools we need to ensure folks have a safe and healthy holiday season. And the single most important tool is the updated COVID-19 vaccine.”
Jha also stressed that the latest vaccines are important because of their ability to protect against the omicron variant.
“Your old vaccine or your previous COVID infection will not give you maximum protection,” the president warned.
He said that Americans should get up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines by Halloween, along with their flu shots. Going forward, Biden recommends that everyone in the U.S. who is at least 5 years old should get an annual COVID-19 shot.
“In other words, it’s just like the flu shot,” he said. Some high-risk people may need more.
As of this month, COVID-19 shots are free in the U.S.
However, at least one pharmaceutical company that produces the vaccines has said it may charge for them if the U.S. stops purchasing new shots.
“Some of our friends in Congress say we don’t need COVID funding, or they say there’s really no reason that the government should be paying for that,” Biden said Tuesday. “I strongly disagree. Strongly disagree. This is a global health emergency. If we really want to put COVID behind us, we have to keep up the fight together. We can’t leave people to face it alone.”