White House announces more steps to battle fall COVID-19 activity

President Biden at podium
President Biden at podium

White House, Adam Schultz / Flickr cc

In comments ahead of getting his updated COVID vaccine booster today, President Joe Biden urged Americans to get booster doses and make use of other tools to battle COVID-19 ahead of an expected rise in cases before the upcoming holiday season.

A bivalent (two-strain) vaccine that targets the original virus plus BA.4/BA.5 variants launched in early September, and so far, uptake has been lukewarm, with nearly 20 million people receiving it. Less than half of Americans have yet to receive any booster doses, leading to fears that increased activity from new Omicron variant with immune escape properties could once again threaten vulnerable groups and put pressure on hospitals, some of which are already grappling with flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases (see related CIDRAP News scan).

Biden said the country is in a good position now to keep cases and deaths low, with easy access to tools to fight the virus: vaccines and treatment. "The bottom line is virtually every death is preventable," he said.

Request for more response funds

Also, Biden pressed Congress to provide more funding for the COVID response to help the country stay ahead of the virus. "If we really want to put COVID behind us, we have to keep the fight together." Pfizer had said it will charge $110 to $130 for a dose of its vaccine once the US government stops buying the shots, according to the Associated Press.

Biden urged Americans to consider getting vaccinated against flu as they get their updated COVID boosters, and he encouraged employers to ease access for workers.

In a statement, the White House also described more new steps, which include targeted communication and education to risk groups, which include not only ethnic groups but also rural communities. For example, football- and country music–themed ads, which position boosters as a way to protect loved ones, are designed to target rural communities in 15 local markets.

In other steps, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) tomorrow will launch the #VaxUpAmerica Family Vaccine Tour, which will encourage family to update their protection ahead of the holidays and to work with local partners to host vaccine pop-up events. As part of the effort, HHS said it will focus some of the vaccine clinic efforts on regions with lower vaccine uptake.

And to help businesses leaders encourage vaccination and manage COVID this fall, the government has launched a fall playbook that describes steps for protecting employees and keeping businesses open, including improving air quality in their buildings.

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