WASHINGTON — President Biden received an updated coronavirus booster shot on Tuesday, using the opportunity to plead with Americans to bolster their protection ahead of a possible surge in virus cases in the coming months.
Flanked by top federal health officials overseeing the pandemic response, Mr. Biden warned that rising cases in Europe could portend another difficult winter for Americans.
“As a country, we have a choice to make,” Mr. Biden said. “Can we repeat what happened in the past winters — more infections, more hospitalizations, more loved ones getting sick, even dying from the virus? Or can we have a much better winter if we use all — all — the tools we have available to us now?”
The vaccination was Mr. Biden’s fifth dose of a coronavirus vaccine and his third booster shot. He received the new shot about three months after a bout with Covid-19 this summer — timing that was aligned with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says that people recently infected with the virus may wait that amount of time before receiving another vaccine.
White House officials have pitched the new boosters as akin to an annual flu shot, a routine inoculation timed for colder weather, when more people move inside and congregate in less ventilated spaces, giving viruses an easier path to infect.
But only about 20 million doses of the new boosters, produced by Pfizer and Moderna, have been administered more than a month and a half into the new campaign, a small fraction of those eligible for the shot. Around one in five seniors have received a dose, according to the White House.
“The truth is, not enough people are getting it,” Mr. Biden said. “We’ve got to change that.”
On Tuesday, the White House announced a series of new promotional steps to try to draw more attention to the shots. The Department of Health and Human Services is rolling out new advertising aimed at Black and Latino audiences, as well as radio ads with football and country music themes that will air in rural communities. The department will continue holding pop-up vaccination clinics in areas with lower vaccination rates, White House officials said, including at an upcoming NASCAR race in Arizona.
Federal regulators authorized the new booster shots at the end of August. The vaccines target the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, the latter of which has made up a vast majority of cases in the United States in recent months. The redesign, federal scientists argued, would likely better protect Americans against more current versions of the virus and could possibly offer more durable protection than the previous vaccines.
Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the White House’s Covid-19 coordinator, has emphasized October as the time when the booster campaign should pick up steam, as more people consider protecting themselves ahead of the holidays.