WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden joked about his age Monday as he rolled up his sleeve for a COVID-19 booster shot, encouraging Americans to get vaccinated against the virus that has killed 688,000 in the U.S. and for those authorized to get their booster doses for more enduring protection.
Days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration recommended a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for Americans 65 and older and approved them for others with preexisting medical conditions and high-risk work environments, Biden said vaccination was essential to ending the pandemic.
“Let me be clear: Boosters are important, but the most important thing we need to do is get more people vaccinated,” Biden said before getting the booster. He added that he did not have side effects after his first or second shots, and hoped for the same experience with his third.
Biden, 78, got his first shot Dec. 21 and his second dose three weeks later, Jan. 11, along with his wife, Jill Biden. Biden said the first lady, who is 70, would also receive the booster dose, but she was teaching Monday at Northern Virginia Community College, where she is a professor of English.
On Capitol Hill, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, 79, a polio survivor, encouraged Americans to get vaccinated and revealed he had also received a booster dose Monday.
“Like I've been saying for months, these safe and effective vaccines are the way to defend ourselves and our families from this terrible virus,” he said.
Hospitals and nursing homes around the U.S. are bracing for worsening staff shortages as state deadlines arrive for health care workers to get vaccinated.
With ultimatums taking effect this week in New York, California, Rhode Island and Connecticut, the fear is that some employees will quit or let themselves be fired or suspended rather than get the vaccine.
New York health care employees had until the end of Monday to get at least one dose, but some hospitals had already begun suspending or otherwise taking action against holdouts.
Some New York hospitals prepared contingency plans that included cutting back on noncritical services and limiting nursing home admissions.
About a dozen states have vaccination mandates covering health care workers in hospitals, long-term care facilities or both. Some allow medical or religious exemptions, but those employees often must submit to regular testing.
The nation's largest school district can immediately impose a vaccine mandate on its teachers and other workers, after all, a federal appeals panel decided late Monday.
The three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan issued a brief order that lifted a block of the mandate that a single appeals judge had put in place Friday.