WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Wednesday got his second COVID booster shot, announced a new coronavirus vaccine and treatment website, and urged Congress to continue providing funding to help with the pandemic — all as polling shows the country is losing interest in the two-year-old public health crisis.
“Americans are back to living their lives again. We can’t surrender that now,” Biden said in remarks from an auditorium across an alley from the West Wing. “That’s why I plan to get my second booster today, right here.”
Biden then peeled off his suit coat and rolled up his sleeve to get a second Pfizer booster, his fourth dose in all, the day after the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved that shot for Americans who are at least 50 years old or immunocompromised.
“I’ve always thought that it discourages people getting a vaccination when they watch people get a needle in their arm. So, I apologize if I discouraged them,” the president joked. “It didn’t hurt a bit.”
Biden also unveiled covid.gov, a new website that lets users locate places to get tested and treated, order at-home test kits, and find out about the prevalence of COVID in their community.
“The bottom line: No longer will Americans have to scour the internet to find vaccines, treatments, tests or masks. It’s all there,” he said. “If you haven’t gotten your first booster, please don’t wait, do it today.”
Whether he can sell that sense of urgency, though, is unclear. Unlike a year ago — when many Americans were eagerly awaiting vaccines to become available for their age group and scrambling to find pharmacies that had doses in stock — COVID is now fading in importance for the public. Most people who want the vaccine have already received two or three doses, and hospitalizations and deaths are now occurring overwhelmingly among those who refuse to be inoculated.
According to a new Gallup poll, only 3% of Americans now see COVID as the top issue facing the country, compared to 17% who think it’s inflation and 4% who believe it’s fuel prices. Two months ago, those figures were 20%, 8% and 2%, respectively.
Biden nevertheless encouraged Americans to remain vigilant and get vaccinated, and he urged Congress to renew funding for COVID prevention and treatment programs. He warned that money is quickly drying up for running vaccine centers, producing more vaccines in the event of a new variant, and even for funding proven therapies like monoclonal antibodies.
“We’ve had to cancel planned orders and cut the supply we’re sending to the states. Without more funding, we’ll start to run out of them by the end of May,” he said. “Congress, please act. You have to act immediately. The consequences of inaction are severe.”
Democratic leaders in the House stripped $15.6 billion for COVID from the broader, recently approved $1.5 trillion spending bill when some of their own members joined Republicans to oppose it, calling it excessive. The House is now considering stand-alone legislation that would provide that money, but it remains to be seen whether such a bill could clear the Senate.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.