The Biden administration is launching a critical, six-week push aimed at stepping up Americans’ Covid-19 booster vaccinations heading into the holiday season.
“With winter and holiday gatherings right around the corner, more Americans getting their updated vaccine will help avoid thousands of preventable Covid-19 deaths. The six-week campaign will focus on reaching seniors and the communities that were hardest hit by Covid-19 through making it more convenient to get vaccinated and increasing awareness through paid media,” a fact sheet shared first with CNN said.
Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, kicks off the campaign during Tuesday’s White House press briefing, which will likely be his last appearance from the briefing room podium ahead of his expected December retirement. Fauci, who has served under seven US presidents and became a household name in the early days of the pandemic, will detail the urgency of getting vaccinated as public health officials have expressed concern about the confluence of Covid-19, RSV and the flu this season.
The push comes as more than 35 million Americans have already received the updated, bivalent booster shot, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One. But that’s a fraction of the Americans eligible – 267 million Americans have received their primary Covid-19 vaccine, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Among the efforts that will be announced Tuesday is a Department of Health and Human Services plan to boost the existing 70,000 locations, “including mobile settings and sites in rural and remote areas,” as well as “pop-up vaccine clinics and educational booths at major community gatherings,” the fact sheet said.
HHS is also launching a public education campaign with TV and digital ads that will be played during the World Cup, the White House said, with a specific focus “on reaching adults 50+ for Black, Latino, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI), American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) and rural audiences.” Additionally, there will be a “targeted paid media effort” to urge Americans over 50 years old and those with chronic conditions to “seek treatment right away if they get Covid-19.” That ad will run in 46 television markets nationwide, the White House said, plus on social and digital media.
There will also be $350 million in funding, aimed at community health centers, that can be used “for mobile, drive-up, walk-up, or community-based vaccination events, partnerships with community and faith-based organizations for vaccination activities, and raising awareness of the updated shot,” the White House said, and $125 million investment in “grants to national organizations that serve people with disabilities and older adults to support community vaccination programs and efforts.”
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will announce new enforcement guidance Tuesday “to ensure nursing homes are offering updated Covid-19 vaccines and timely treatment to their residents and staff” that will warn nursing homes with low vaccination rates “will be referred to state survey agencies for close scrutiny” and could “face enforcement actions.”
The new funding for these efforts also comes as the White House is calling on Congress to include $10 billion in supplemental funding for Covid-19 response as part of the must-pass government funding bill.
That $10 billion request reflects a paring down from an original $22.5 billion request submitted earlier this year that has gone unfulfilled.
“We need additional resources to ensure that we have the necessary services and supplies to keep the American people safe,” Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week, warning that a failure to fund this request “would lead to needless infections and deaths across the Nation and around the world.”
The $10 billion request includes $2.5 million “to ensure continued access to vaccines and therapeutics (including for the uninsured) as we transition to commercialization of vaccines and therapeutics, and for Strategic National Stockpile maintenance costs,” $5 billion for “development of next-generation vaccines and therapeutics,” $750 million for long Covid-19 research and treatment, and $1 billion in funding for the State Department to “provide support to prevent, detect, and respond to Covid-19 and other infectious diseases, including through vaccines, tests, and treatments, and through efforts to close gaps in routine immunizations.”
Previous efforts toward passing Covid-19 funding for vaccines, testing, and treatments this spring and summer have failed. Officials have repeatedly warned of the consequences of not passing this funding as it takes steps toward moving the Covid-19 response to the commercial market, highlighting “unacceptable tradeoffs” in US response.