WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Monday received a COVID-19 booster shot as part of a broader, public push to promote vaccinations in the hopes of slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“Now, I know it doesn’t look like it, but I am over 65. And that’s why I am getting my booster shot today,” said Biden, 78, before receiving his Pfizer booster shot in front of reporters and photographers at the White House.
Biden’s third shot comes less than one week after health officials approved boosters of Pfizer’s vaccine for Americans over age 65, adults with certain underlying health conditions and people living in long-term care facilities. The government also cleared the way for adult workers facing a high risk of contracting the virus to get boosters. Eligible Americans can get the third shot at least six months after they receive their second.
Biden said he did not suffer any side effects after taking his first and second shots in the winter. Like the booster administered Monday at the White House, Biden received his previous injections in front of reporters in an effort to encourage Americans to be inoculated. First lady Jill Biden is expected to soon get a booster, the president said.
A majority of vaccinated Americans took the Pfizer shots, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Neither Moderna nor Johnson & Johnson boosters have been approved by federal officials.
Those “will come later maybe, I assume,” Biden said.
Biden said booster shots are important “but the most important thing we need to do is get more people vaccinated.”
The Biden administration has become increasingly frustrated that despite the sweeping availability of lifesaving vaccines, the pandemic has not yet ebbed, especially since the more contagious delta variant has swept through much of the nation.
About 77% of eligible Americans have had at least one vaccination shot, according to federal statistics, with about 65% considered fully vaccinated. About 23% haven’t gotten any shots, and “that distinct minority is causing an awful lot of damage for the rest of the country,” Biden said.
“This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Biden said. “We know that to beat this pandemic and save lives, to keep our children safe, schools open, our economy going, we need to get folks vaccinated.”
“So please, please do the right thing,” Biden said. “Please get the shot. It can save your life. It can save the lives of those around you.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on Monday said he also received a third shot, tweeting that he “followed the advice of experts and my doctors and received a booster” shot.
“Mountains of evidence tell us these shots are safe and effective,” the Republican senator said. “I continue to encourage all Americans to speak with their doctors and get vaccinated.”
Earlier this month, a panel that advises the Food and Drug Administration rejected a plan that would have made booster shots available to most Americans. Experts have urged against a third dose to healthy adults because, they have said, it is unclear how it would substantially slow the spread of the deadly virus.
Experts have urged Biden to focus on vaccinating people around to world to limit opportunities for new and potentially more deadly variants to emerge. More than 70% of the 5.7 billion vaccine doses administrated globally have gone to just 10 countries, according to the World Health Organization.
“We are going to do our part,” Biden told reporters Monday when asked about the need to increase vaccinations around the world.
Biden pledged to ship more than 1 billion doses to other countries by next fall, a fraction of what experts say is needed to safeguard the world. Biden previously said his administration is working with other countries to help increase their own manufacturing capacity.
Regulators are expected to approve Pfizer’s two-shot vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 in the coming months.