President Joe Biden on Tuesday got another Covid booster shot and urged all Americans to do the same. He also called on Congress once again to provide billions of dollars in additional funding to combat the virus.
“It’s incredibly effective,” Biden said of the booster shot, which has been updated to better target recent Omicron variants as well as the original coronavirus strain. “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.”
Biden noted that more than 20 million Americans have gotten their updated vaccine. That means that many more millions — more than 90% of the eligible population — have not gotten boosted at a time when concern is rising about a potential “tripledemic,” a combination of surging Covid cases coinciding with flu season and infections from another bug, respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, which poses heightened risks for the elderly.
“Let me as plain as I can,” Biden said. “We still have hundreds of people dying each day from Covid in this country — hundreds. 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. So, get your updated Covid shot.”
Biden said that 95% of Americans can find a free, updated vaccine within five miles of their home and urged the public to visit Vaccines.gov to find a vaccination location.
The president then called on lawmakers to deliver more money to fight the virus. “To our friends in Congress, it’s time to step up with much-needed Covid funding. Help us stay ahead of the virus and keep our communities going strong with free vaccines, free tests, and widely available treatments,” he said.
Republicans not interested: New funding for Covid has stalled out in Congress, after earlier plans fizzled in the face of partisan objections and a bipartisan proposal for $10 billion more to fight the pandemic fell apart. Republicans have since balked at providing any more Covid funding — and Biden gave them some ammunition for the position last month when he said that the pandemic is over. On Tuesday, he said more money is necessary to make sure that the virus doesn’t reemerge as a national emergency.
“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. “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.”
New variant emerging: The Washington Post Editorial Board warns that another wave of Covid is on the horizon as a new “immunity-evading subvariant” called BQ.1 and an offshoot called BQ.1.1 account for a rising number of infections (see the bottom right corner of the chart below). “One reason to worry is that BQ.1.1 evades immune systems on a greater scale than other variants and subvariants,” the editors write. “The most important step is for all eligible individuals to get vaccinated and boosted. It will be necessary to return to wearing masks in some places, particularly crowded areas with close contact. Everyone should test themselves often and, if positive, stay home — for their sake and for that of others.”