U.S. President Joe Biden says the country has given out over 70 million booster shots, urging American residents who are eligible for booster doses to get them as soon as possible.
Mr Biden, who disclosed this before a briefing with his COVID-19 advisers at the White House on Tuesday, also urged American residents who had not been vaccinated to do so.
Currently, about 66 per cent of eligible adult Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and roughly one-third have received booster doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“If you are vaccinated and boosted, you are highly protected,” Biden said, and noted that those who were vaccinated could still contract COVID-19 but were unlikely to become seriously ill.
“Be concerned about Omicron, but don’t be alarmed. But if you’re unvaccinated, you have some reason to be alarmed,” he said.
According to him, booster shots are free, safe and available at over 90,000 vaccination sites.
“We have added sites, added hours, added appointments and added walk-in capacity. We have booster shots for every American in the country.
“It’s easier than ever to get a booster shot and more importantly than ever it’s been,’’ the president said.
Mr Biden said that the U.S. had the tools to protect Americans from severe illness from the virus.
“Folks, I know we’re all tired and frustrated about the pandemic. These coming weeks are going to be challenging. Please wear your mask in public to protect yourself and others.
“We’re going to get through this,” Mr Biden said. “We have the tools to protect people from severe illness due to Omicron if people choose to use the tools.”
The U.S. reported over one million COVID-19 cases on Monday, driven up in part by backlogs over the New Year’s holiday. The U.S. is now averaging over 480,000 daily COVID-19 infections.
Hospitals in some states have been overwhelmed, forcing the federal government to send personnel to help with the surge in cases.
Mr Biden also announced plans to double the federal government’s purchases of Pfizer’s COVID-19 drug, Paxlovid, to 20 million courses.
The president, however, cautioned that it would take months for the pills to be produced and made available.
The U.S. leader emphasised his desire to keep schools open and noted that funding allocated for schools in the 1.9 trillion dollars coronavirus relief package passed 2021.
His message has been consistent that school closures and other shutdowns were not necessary to address the current wave of cases.
Despite Mr Biden’s position, some schools have temporarily reverted to virtual learning due to the omicron wave.