Presidential jab: Joe Biden gets updated COVID-19 booster

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden received his updated COVID-19 booster during a live-streamed address Tuesday afternoon at the White House, encouraging Americans to protect themselves now against not only the coronavirus but also the flu to minimize disruptions to planned holiday gatherings.

“By Halloween is the best time … to be protected for the holidays,” Biden said, moments before receiving his latest COVID-19 booster, adding, “And while you’re at it, get the flu shot.”

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Meanwhile, Dr. Ashish Jha, leader of the White House response to COVID-19, confirmed to The Associated Press that three respiratory viruses are currently circulating across the U.S: the flu, COVID-19 and RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus.

Flanked by both some of the top U.S. infectious disease experts and executives from several major drugstore chains, Biden explained that the latest COVID-19 vaccine booster has been reformulated to target the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the omicron variant, currently the most dominant strains in the United States.

“We’re already seeing a rise in the flu and RSV and other respiratory illnesses, especially among young children,” Biden said, encouraging employers to make employee access to vaccines as convenient as possible.

Biden claimed before receiving his shot that roughly 95% of Americans can locate an updated COVID-19 vaccine booster within five miles of their home, with providers ranging from chain and independent pharmacies to rural health clinics. He also said that vaccines and testing remain free at this time.

According to White House data, more than 20 million people, including nearly 1 in 5 older adults, have already received their updated COVID-19 booster.

“If you’re relying on your old vaccine from nine months ago or an infection from a year ago, that’s probably not going to be good enough and that’s one of the reasons we’re urging all Americans — but particularly older Americans, particularly seniors — to get the new updated COVID vaccine, because I do think it’s going to make a really big difference,” Jha told “Today.”

Meanwhile, Biden reminded those gathered at the White House that COVID-19 remains a “global health emergency.”

“We’ve already lost over 1 million American people to COVID-19. We can do so much now to reduce the number of people who die from this disease,” he added.

- The Associated Press contributed to this report.