President Joe Biden got his COVID-19 booster shot before news cameras Monday as his administration promotes new booster guidance that has spurred some confusion among Americans on when to get a third dose.
“Like I did with my first and second COVID-19 vaccination shot, I’m about to get my booster shot and do it publicly. That’s because the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA, the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, the CDC, looked at all the data, completed their review, and determined the boosters for the Pfizer vaccine — others will come later, maybe, I assume — but the Pfizer vaccine are safe and effective,” Biden began at an early afternoon event.
Delivering remarks ahead of receiving a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in the South Court Auditorium, Biden took the opportunity to address some of that confusion.
He joked, “Now I know it doesn’t look like it, but I am over 65 — I wish — I’m way over. And that’s why I’m getting my booster shot today.”
The president received his first dose of the vaccine on Dec. 21, 2020, and his second dose on Jan. 11, 2021. At 78, Biden qualifies for a third shot under the new CDC guidance issued last week recommending booster shots to Americans 65 and older at least six months after their first series of shots.
Additionally, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky overruled her agency’s independent advisory panel last Friday by adding a recommendation for a third dose for Americans ages 18 to 64 considered high risk to COVID-19 due to where they work.
Biden repeated the administration’s messaging that while booster shots are rolling out, baseline vaccinations are the priority.
“The bottom line is that you’re fully vaccinated, and you’re highly protected now from severe illness, even if you get COVID-19. You’re safe and we’re going to do everything we can to keep it that way, with the boosters. But let me be clear, boosters are important, but the most important thing we need to do is get more people vaccinated,” he said.
“The vast majority of Americans are doing the right thing. Over 77% of adults have gotten at least one shot. About 23% haven’t gotten any shots. And that, that distinct minority is causing an awful lot of us, a lot of damage for the rest of the country,” he added.
“This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. That’s why I’m moving forward with vaccination requirements wherever I can,” Biden said.
As Biden walked over to receive his shot, he did a double-take, walking back to the podium to put his mask back on, in apparent modeling of CDC recommendations, before he sat, rolled up his sleeve and a military medical professional administered the shot.
Underscoring how easy it is to get the vaccine, Biden talked the entire time he received his, fielding questions from reporters.
“We are helping — we are more than every other nation in the world combined,” he said, confronted with the World Health Organization’s opposition to booster shots before some in poorer nations get their first doses. “We’re gonna do our part.”
Asked about the upcoming week on Capitol Hill, Biden told reporters, “We’ve got three things to do: The debt ceiling, the continuing resolution and the two pieces of legislation. If we do that, the country is going to be in great shape.”
He also said first lady Jill Biden, at age 70 and working in a school, considered a high-risk environment for COVID-19, would receive her shot booster soon, too, and late Monday afternoon, a spokesman confirmed she had gotten one.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a survivor of childhood polio, on the Senate floor on Monday afternoon also announced he had just received a booster shot and encouraged vaccinations.
The president, standing up and replacing his suit jacket, answered a question from a White House reporter on how many people need to be vaccinated to go back to normal.
“One thing’s for certain. A quarter of the country cannot go unvaccinated and us not continue to have a problem,” Biden said, though he deferred to scientists on the actual numbers.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked following Biden’s booster if a graphic provided by the White House on booster eligibility illustrated a concern that back-and-forth guidance from the CDC has left people confused about the booster, and perhaps, more doubtful about the vaccine altogether.
“Well, I would say the reason we did this chart is that sometimes it’s self-perpetuating. If everybody here is saying it’s confusing, then people are going to think it’s confusing. And so what I’m trying to do is alleviate the confusion, right?” she said.
“We want to do everything we can to alleviate any confusion, answer questions people have. The president went and got his shot his booster shot on camera to make clear it’s safe, it’s effective. It’s something you should do if you’re in one of these categories,” she added.
On ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday, Walensky acknowledged the confusion around the decision and the categories of people it applies to as the administration promotes the rollout of booster shots.
Asked also on CBS about Biden’s comment last week that boosters could be offered to the general population anyway, despite the more narrow recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration and CDC, Walensky said, “I recognize that confusion.”
“Right now, our recommendation is for these limited people in the population, over 65, high-risk workers, high-risk community occupations, as well as high-risk by comorbidities,” she said.
On when the general population will be eligible, Walensky said it’s being looked at every few weeks but did not offer the same optimism as the president had last week.
“We are evaluating this science in real-time. We are meeting every several weeks now to evaluate the science. The science may very well show that the rest of the population needs to be boosted. And we will provide those guidances as soon as we have the science to inform them,” she said.
The new CDC current policy does not apply for boosters to be given to people initially vaccinated with the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson shots.
ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky, Cheyenne Haslett and Ben Gittleson contributed to this report.
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