President Joe Biden said Wednesday that Covid vaccinations for kids and booster shots for adults will speed up the pandemic’s end date in the U.S.
Covid cases and hospitalizations in the U.S. are down more than 50% since early September, with both falling in 40 states over the past two weeks, Biden said.
“Vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 and boosters that provide additional protection for seniors and others are two major steps forward that are going to accelerate our path out of this pandemic,” he said from the White House.
Public health officials and health experts have said vaccinating younger age groups and giving extra doses to at-risk groups, such as the elderly, could help the U.S. move toward Covid’s so-called “endemic” phase, where the virus is still circulating but at lower levels than it is now.
Even though the seven-day average number of Covid cases in the U.S. was steadily falling until about a week ago, cases have started to climb over the last week and the virus still infects an average of more than 74,000 Americans per day, according to a CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. Children are beginning to make up a greater share of new infections, officials say.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Tuesday cleared distributing doses of the Pfizer vaccine to children ages 5 to 11, making as many as 28 million kids in the U.S. eligible to get vaccinated.
U.S. regulators have already authorized booster shots for tens of millions of adults who received either the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Nearly 20 million Americans have received an additional dose as of Tuesday, according to data compiled by the CDC.
Booster shots are “free and effective,” Biden said Wednesday, urging every senior to get one. He said in just six weeks, about half of all eligible seniors who received the Pfizer vaccine have gotten a booster shot.
“Our vaccination program is not only helping to save lives and beat the pandemic, it’s helping our economic recovery and helping us grow,” Biden said.
He said Covid shots for younger age groups will keep kids in the classroom and allow them to socialize with their classmates.
“I think every reporter in this room who has a child understands the difference of a child going to school and having to learn from home. It matters,” he said.