By Trevor Hunnicutt
U.S. President Joe Biden rolled up his sleeve for a second COVID-19 booster shot on Wednesday as his administration rolled out efforts to help Americans live with the coronavirus, including a new website and a renewed push for vaccinations and funding.
“If we fail to invest, we leave ourselves vulnerable if another wave hits,” Biden said in remarks at the White House to launch COVID.gov, a clearinghouse of information aimed at helping people manage the virus as they seek a return to normalcy.
On Tuesday, U.S. health officials authorized a second booster shot for Americans age 50 and older and those who are immunocompromised, two years after the start of the pandemic.
Biden, 79, received his fourth dose of the Pfizer Inc/BioNTech SE vaccine. A second booster of Moderna Inc’s shot also was authorized.
Several drugstore chains, including CVS Health and Walgreens Boots Alliance, said they would start offering second booster doses.
Nearly 982,000 people in the United States have died from COVID since early 2020 over several waves of the disease, according to a Reuters analysis of local data.
Although vaccines and increasingly available therapies for COVID-19 have reduced severe illness and deaths, public health officials are monitoring BA.2, an Omicron subvariant that now accounts for more than half of all U.S. cases.
U.S. officials have said they do not expect another major surge, but noted COVID cases could rise from BA.2 or a subsequent variant, reflecting the administration’s position that the country must learn to live with and adapt to some level of this coronavirus.
Biden has asked Congress for another tranche of funding to pay for current vaccinations and treatments, as well as to shore up the nation’s preparedness for future outbreaks.
“We need to secure additional supply now,” he said on Wednesday, warning free COVID vaccines may not be available this autumn without more funds, especially if a new vaccine is needed. “Congress, please act… immediately. The consequences of inaction are severe.”
Biden, who had sought $22.5 billion, this month warned the U.S. government would run out of funding for supplies without more support.
Lawmakers lowered the amount before dropping it altogether from the most recent government funding bill, with congressional Democrats saying they will take up COVID funding separately.
No. 2 House Democrat Representative Steny Hoyer told reporters that he hopes the chamber can vote on a separate COVID measure next week if the Senate can reach an agreement.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky and other senior Biden administration health officials are scheduled to update lawmakers at a U.S. House hearing on Wednesday afternoon.
Several members of the White House communications office, including Jen Psaki, recently tested positive for COVID.