The Biden administration on Monday will launch its latest push to get more Americans vaccinated with the updated COVID-19 booster shots ahead of the holidays and an expected coronavirus wave in the fall and winter.
The Department of Health and Human Services on Monday will kick off its “Countdown to Thanksgiving Vax Up America Tour” that aims to get more shots in arms ahead of the holiday. The agency will work with national and community-based organizations, among others, to bring pop-up vaccine sites to large community events.
“As we countdown to Thanksgiving, I have one simple message for all Americans: It’s time to vax up, America,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a video message first shared with U.S. News. “Because while COVID-19 may not be the disruptive force it was when President Biden first took office, the virus continues to evolve, and the stakes are still high.”
The agency and its partners will also offer COVID-19 vaccines at football games at historically Black colleges and universities in an effort to reach Black communities. The agency expects to reach thousands of Americans at each location, which includes Alcorn State University, the SWAC Championship Game in Jackson, Miss., and the Celebration Bowl in Atlanta. A list of upcoming events will be available on the agency’s “We Can Do This” website.
About 10% of the U.S. population has gotten an updated shot, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The shots from Pfizer and Moderna, which target the omicron variant as well as the original coronavirus strain, were authorized at the end of August and expanded to children as young as 5 years old in October.
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The Biden administration has acknowledged that uptake of the shot is too low.
“It’s incredibly effective, but the truth is, not enough people are getting it,” President Joe Biden said last month when he rolled up his sleeve to get the shot. “We have to change that so we can all have a safe and healthy holiday season.”
He said that the choice was up to Americans about what kind of winter the U.S. will have with COVID-19. The Biden administration previously warned that about 100 million Americans could get infected with COVID-19 this fall and winter.
“People will spend more time indoors, and contagious viruses like COVID are going to spread considerably more easily,” Biden said. “As a country, we have a choice to make: Can we repeat what happened in the past winters? More infections, more hospitalizations, more loved ones getting sick, even dying from the virus? Or can we have a much better one if we use all that’s available to us now?”
There is a glimmer of hope that at least some Americans are getting the message. More than 5 million of the shots were administered last week, which is the highest weekly total since the administration’s fall booster campaign began.
But with just 10 days to go until Thanksgiving and coronavirus cases already starting to tick up, time is of the essence to get more Americans the shots.