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 have yet to be boosted to do so by Halloween, if possible, so they can gather safely with family and friends this holiday season.
"Get vaccinated," he said, noting that it's free. "Not enough people are getting it."
Biden also called on Congress to provide the billions of dollars the administration has requested to buy additional vaccines, tests and treatments. Some lawmakers have balked at the request for more than $20 billion in new coronavirus funding.
Biden, who was flanked by his COVID-19 response team, declared that the fight against the spread of virus is global in nature and the "funding we seek is critical" to that effort.
Over 20 million people, including nearly 1 in 5 older adults, have gotten the updated COVID-19 booster, the White House said. The vaccine has been reformulated to target the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of omicron, the most dominant strains in the United States.
Biden said more people need to get the vaccine as winter approaches and they will be spending more time indoors and potentially spreading sickness. 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 they get an annual flu shot. He said a COVID-19 booster will become an annual event.
"For most Americans, one COVID shot each year will be all they need," Biden said at the White House. "And if you get it, you'll be protected. And if you don't, you're putting yourself and other people at unnecessary risk."
"I'm calling on All Americans ... all Americans to get their shot, just as soon as they can," he said.
A member of the White House Medical Unit gave the shot to Biden in his left arm. He had to delay getting his booster, in accordance with federal health guidance, because he was infected with COVID-19 over the summer.
Biden again called on businesses, schools and civic leaders to help, including by holding on-site vaccination clinics and giving employees time off to get boosted. Most deaths from COVID-19 are now preventable, he said.
Three respiratory viruses are currently circulating in the U.S: the flu, COVID-19 and RSV, respiratory syncytial virus, said Dr. Ashish Jha, leader of the White House COVID-19 response.
Jha said Tuesday that the combination of a flu shot and updated COVID booster will help people avoid serious illness and stay out of the hospital as they get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving and other holidays with friends and family.
"We need everyone to step up and do their part, this is literally about saving lives of tens of thousands of Americans this fall and winter," he said. "The great news here is that unlike past winters, we are in control."
RSV has also been affecting children, and there is no shot available to treat it, though companies are working to develop one, he said. He said the majority of those cases tend to be mild though it remains a concern.
Meanwhile, 8 million doses of the antiviral therapy Paxlovid have gone out to pharmacies, and 5.5 million have been administered. Jha said there will be "plenty" for the fall and winter.