After giving an update on the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday, President Joe Biden rolled up his sleeve to receive a second COVID-19 booster dose.
"It didn't hurt a bit," the president quipped afterward.
Biden received a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as his booster, his second shot as president. It was administered by a member of the White House Medical Unit.
The move comes one day after the FDA and CDC authorized a second COVID-19 booster shot for adults 50 and older. Biden, 79, received his first COVID booster in September of last year; it completed his initial round of COVID-19 shots in January 2021 as president-elect.
"If you haven't gotten your first booster, please don't wait. Do it today," the president said in a speech beforehand, a message directed at more than half of adults who are fully vaccinated but have not gotten their third shot.
Biden also officially announced covid.gov, a new one-stop shop for information related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a test-to-treat locator where people can access pharmacies and health centers where they can get tested for COVID-19 and immediately receive treatment if necessary.
"The bottom line: no longer will Americans have to scour the internet to find vaccines, treatments, tests or masks. It's all there," he said.
The website includes:
- COVID-19 guidance for your community, searchable by county
- Information about COVID-19 symptoms, at-home testing and travel
- Where to find a vaccine or boster
- A form to order free COVID-19 tests
- Information about masks and where to find them
- A test-to-treat locator
In his remarks Wednesday, the president also called on Congress to authorize additional funding to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and warn that some programs will be severely curtailed if they go unfunded.
"Americans are back to living their lives again. We can't surrender that now," he said. "Congress, please act. You have to act immediately."
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, told Spectrum News that the funding is essential to help combat future pandemics.
"We don't know what's going to happen in the future," Dr. Fauci said. "And as long as there's a lot of virus that is being spread throughout the world, there's a danger that there will be variants, and we've got to be prepared for them, prepared that when they come, we make sure people get vaccinated, they get tested."
Dr. Fauci's comments come as the omicron subvariant BA.2, also known as “stealth omicron,” is now dominant in the United States. Fifty-five percent of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are now BA.2, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s up from 39% last week, and up from 7.4% a month ago.
Although the variant is highly transmissible, Dr. Fauci says he doesn’t anticipate a surge in cases that would strain hospitals.
"I was on the phone with several of the health commissioners throughout the country last night, and they were telling me that they was starting to see very minor types of upticks but no increase in the requirement for hospitalization," Dr. Fauci told Spectrum News.
The White House initially asked for $22.5 billion in new COVID-19 funding, including money to help battle future variants. Congress had initially included $15.6 billion in funding in its $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill, but it was removed after Republicans and some Democrats could not come to consensus on how the money would be offset.
The White House has warned that, unless lawmakers act, the federal government will run out of money to purchase additional tests, treatments and vaccines. And a new report released Monday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy think tank, said that many Americans, largely those uninsured, would be impacted if Congress does not approve another round of COVID-19 emergency funding.
At a press briefing Tuesday, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield warned that if "at some point, it becomes recommended that the full population requires a fourth shot, we're going to need additional funding."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is working with Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, to try to come to a consensus on further COVID-19 funding. Schumer said this week that he has made "good progress" with the Utah Republican, but warned "we're not there yet."
"Yesterday, I met again with my Republican colleague Sen. Romney as we worked to an agreement, and today these negotiations will keep going," Schumer said on the Senate floor on Wednesday. "We'll keep working throughout the day and I am committed to working with the other side reasonably and in good faith."