Biden gets latest COVID vaccine, urges Americans to do same

By Jeff Mason and Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden rolled up his sleeve and received an updated COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, using the occasion to urge more Americans to get the booster before the upcoming holiday season, especially seniors.

"I'm calling on all Americans to get their shot just as soon as they can," Biden said shortly before a doctor gave him the new shot.

With some Americans resistant to the vaccines, Biden urged them to put partisan politics aside, noting that more than 1 million people in the United States have died from COVID-19.

"We can do so much now to reduce the number of people who die from this disease. We have the tools, we have the vaccines, we have the treatments. None of this is about politics. It's about your health and the health of your loved ones," he said.

Only 20 million people in the United States have received an updated COVID booster, and just one in five seniors, the White House said last week. The new "bivalent" shots target currently circulating Omicron subvariants of the virus as well as the original version.

Biden said more progress is needed and urged people to get their booster by the end of October in order to provide protection over the holidays.

White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha told reporters that a large majority of Americans should get the vaccine as an annual shot.

He said the spread of the virus could accelerate during the winter months and that the vaccine is the best way for Americans to protect themselves.

The onset of flu season in the United States is coinciding with reports of a spike in cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, especially in children, straining hospitals in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus is still spreading and claiming lives, with the United States reporting 260,808 new cases a week and 2,566 deaths, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show.

New efforts to increase vaccinations include a #VaxUpAmerica Family Vaccine Tour to be launched by the Department of Health and Human Services, with pop-up vaccination events at Head Start centers, nursing homes and community health centers.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will send a second email reminder about the updated vaccine to 16 million people who signed up for Medicare emails, the White House said.

Biden wants each school district, college and university to host at least one vaccination clinic by Thanksgiving, while urging employers to offer paid time off for vaccination and host on-site vaccination clinics for employees.

"Nearly every death is preventable," he said.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Andrea Shalal, additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; Writing by Steve Holland; Editing by Stephen Coates, Bill Berkrot and Aurora Ellis)