President Joe Biden on Tuesday will receive an updated vaccine to boost Covid-19 as federal health officials push their case for more funding to respond to the pandemic as the nation heads into winter and a potential surge in cases.
Getting his endorsement gives Biden another chance to promote the shot as his administration continues to grapple with political challenges and public health hurdles posed by slow adoption at the national level. The appointment comes a little more than two months before Congress’s mid-December deadline to continue funding the federal government, including federal Covid-19 efforts that the administration says Congress is already funding.
It also comes two weeks before Election Day in the midterm races, an election that could reset the political reality of any remaining plans the administration has to fund pandemic-related work.
On Tuesday, when he receives the vaccine, the president will announce additional engagement efforts to help promote and educate Americans about the updated vaccine. CNN reported Tuesday that the Department of Health and Human Services is debuting new ads aimed at increasing uptake of the promotions. A White House official says Biden will also “meet with business leaders and administration officials and discuss what his administration is doing to encourage more Americans to get updated Covid-19 shots.”
It’s been more than three months since Biden contracted Covid-19, which is the amount of time the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people may want to consider waiting before recovering. The President last received the second shot of the Covid vaccine on March 30.
The bivalent boosters target the original coronavirus strain as well as the Omicron BA.4/BA.5 subvariants. Vaccines are available for people 5 years of age and older, as long as they have completed all the first doses of the vaccine series.
Biden’s Tuesday afternoon appointment to throw himself in front of cellphone cameras again and ask Americans to do the same follows data from last week that showed usage of the updated ad had started slowly and picked up in recent weeks.
As of last week, the administration said a total of 20 million Americans had received it, or less than 10 percent of the population. That slow uptake could be worrisome as the country heads into a possible winter spike in Covid cases, as well as a possible spike in flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases.
If more people in the US get it by the end of the year, about 90,000 Covid-19 deaths could be prevented this fall and winter. But if booster vaccinations continue at their current pace, the nation could see more than 1,000 Covid-19 deaths this winter, according to research published earlier this month by the Commonwealth Fund.
The Biden administration has been calling for additional funding for the nation’s Covid-19 response for months, but so far to no avail.
Congress passed a measure to fund the federal government through mid-December, but the legislation did not include funding related to coronavirus vaccines, testing or treatments requested by the White House.
Drugmaker Pfizer said last week that as government contracts expire, possibly early next year, its Covid-19 vaccine will sell for $110 to $130 per dose.
And the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, Dr. Ashish Jha, also expressed concern earlier this month that Congress has not provided enough Covid-related funding to prepare for the winter, saying the US does not have an “adequate” number of Covid-19 cases. 19 test winter is approaching.
“There is no doubt that our response has been hampered by this lack of funding,” he added.
Jha added at the time that despite these resources, the Covid-19 vaccine campaign was still limited due to lack of funding.
“So Congress has a lot of responsibility for the complexities we find ourselves in right now. You can’t have any kind of national response to an infectious and deadly virus without adequate funding from Congress,” he said.
Jha warned Tuesday that there could be “problems” with hospitalizations for children, but said that won’t be necessary if Americans get the flu vaccine and an updated booster.
“We are seeing the rise of three viruses at increasing levels: RSV, influenza, influenza and Covid. The good news here is that we are not powerless against this. For two of them, we have very high quality vaccines, influenza and Covid-19, so people should the first and most important thing he can do is go out and get vaccinated because that will keep kids, adults, everybody out of the hospital. high rates,” he said on CNN’s “New Day.”
He explained that the new circulating variants of the coronavirus are “extremely immune-evasive”, but he is “certain” that the bivalent vaccine “will hold them back”.
“Our vaccines should do a good job of containing this new sub-variant. You know, where the virus goes — this has been a very unpredictable type of virus. We’ve seen it evolve over time. And the good news is, as the virus changes, we’ve been able to keep up with it. . So the new vaccines keep coming. I suspect there may be another vaccine next fall, but we’re entering a time where, for most people, it’s going to be an updated vaccine once a year,” Jha added.
Along with Biden’s personal public effort to advocate for more Americans to get their updated Covid-19 booster, this week the US Department of Health and Human Services will debut new ads targeting specific communities that have seen slow uptake of updated shots.
“New TV ads airing today send an urgent message to communities at high risk of serious illness from Covid that an up-to-date vaccine is our best tool against hospitalization and death,” HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Sarah Lovenheim told CNN. .
“These announcements also reflect our commitment to equity in our Covid response and the need to redouble our efforts to reach black and Hispanic communities about the benefits of updated vaccines,” he said. “We have seen an increase in Covid infections in previous winters, and this should not be the case this year. We have now updated the Covid-19 vaccines to protect against the Omicron strain.”