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Biden gets new COVID vaccine, announces new virus initiatives

(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden received his updated COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday while calling on more Americans to do so ahead of the winter and holiday season.

Biden was joined by leaders of major U.S. pharmacy chains Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid and Albertsons as well as Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, the president’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and White House COVID-19 response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha.

“We’re here with a simple message: Get vaccinated, update your COVID vaccine,” Biden said. “It’s incredibly effective, but the truth is not enough people are getting it. We’ve got to change that so that we can all have a safe and healthy holiday season.”

More than 20 million Americans, including nearly one in five seniors, have already gotten their updated COVID-19 vaccine. The latest booster shots target two subvariants of the omicron variant, which are versions of the virus that are currently most dominant in the United States and around the world, according to the White House.

The Biden administration announced Tuesday several initiatives to encourage Americans to get boosted.

“As a country we have a choice to make,” the president said. “Can we repeat what happened in the past winters? More infections, more hospitalizations, more loved ones getting sick, even dying, from the virus. Or are we going to have a much better winter if we use all the tools we have available to us now?”

In the coming weeks, Walgreens will team up with DoorDash and Uber “to provide free delivery of prescriptions of Paxlovid, an oral COVID-19 treatment, directly to the doorsteps of Americans living in underserved communities,” according to a White House fact sheet.

The Department of Health and Human Services will launch what the administration is calling the “#VaxUpAmerica Family Vaccine Tour,” with pop-up events — including at the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Championship in Arizona next month — and the distribution of vaccination “toolkits” to child care centers, nursing homes, community health centers and other locations.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will target seniors with efforts to reach people via email and telephone to provide information about the updated COVID-19 vaccines and how to get them, according to the White House.

The Biden administration will also be releasing a “fall playbook for businesses to manage COVID-19,” according to the White House.

In his remarks on Tuesday, Biden called on companies to offer employees time off to get vaccinated and called on colleges and schools to host onsite vaccine clinics before Thanksgiving.

“None of this is about politics,” the president said. “It’s about your health and the health of your loved ones.”

Meanwhile, Albertsons, CVS, Rite Aid, Southeastern Grocers, Walgreens, Walmart and Sam’s Club have their own initiatives to help Americans get vaccinated.

At Tuesday’s event, a reporter asked Biden if COVID was “still a national emergency.” The president seemed to suggest it was not in the present tense, responding, “It’s a necessity to deal with, making sure it doesn’t become one.”

But he did call the virus a “global emergency” and criticized Congress for not doling out more COVID funding. Republican lawmakers have resisted the latest requests for more money, in part by saying that previous appropriations weren’t fully used.

“Some of our friends in Congress say we don’t need COVID funding or they say that [there is] really no reason that the government should be paying for it. 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,” Biden said.

– ABC News’ Cheyenne Haslett and Alexandra Hutzler contributed to this report.

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