Biden silent on Afghanistan chaos as he promotes Covid booster shots and vaxx mandates

President hits GOP for politicising vaccines and masks

John Bowden
Washington DC
Thursday 19 August 2021 01:00
Biden announces compulsory vaccines for nursing home staff in Medicare facilities

President Joe Biden gave no mention to the ongoing desperate evacuations of Americans, Afghan nationals and others from Kabul on Wednesday at a national address in which he promoted vaccinations and hammered Republican governors for politicising efforts to fight Covid-19.

Speaking at the White House, the president did not take questions from reporters after giving remarks largely echoing his previous statements about Covid-19 and the danger of not being vaccinated, while taking some new shots at GOP politicians who have taken stances against masks or vaccine mandates.

In one moment during the speech the president took aim at Florida’s Ron DeSantis, a frequent foe of the president who is thought to have national ambitions, and other governors who have taken action to or considered penalizing school districts that require masks for students. In Florida, such districts risk losing state funding.

"We're not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators for protecting our children,” said the president.

"Today, I'm directing the Secretary of Education, an educator himself, to take additional steps to protect our children. This includes using all of his oversight authorities, and legal action, if appropriate, against governors who are trying to block and intimidate local educators,” said Mr Biden, adding: “As I've said before, if you're not going to fight Covid-19, at least get out of the way of everyone else who's trying.”

He also announced a new federal vaccine requirement for anyone working with Medicaid or Medicare patients in nursing homes, which will now risk losing funding from those programs if their employees are unvaccinated.

“If you work in a nursing home and serve people on Medicare or Medicaid, you will also be required to be vaccinated,” he said.

Mr Biden went on to address vaccine booster shots, which his administration and top health agencies are now recommending that all Americans get eight months after their second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Millions of Americans who received the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine are still waiting to hear whether they should get a second jab.

“Ensuring long-term and durable protection against hospitalisation and death are critical in curbing the Covid-19 pandemic,” Johnson & Johnson told CNN on Wednesday. “Johnson & Johnson continues to diligently generate and evaluate evidence from ongoing trials as well as emerging real-world evidence as it assesses the need for a booster of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine.”

His administration has faced some questions in recent days about recommendations for a third shot while vaccine shortages still exist around the world; on Wednesday, Mr Biden defended the US effort to donate vaccines abroad and suggested that the questions represented a false choice.

“I know that some world leaders who say America shouldn’t get a third shot until other countries got their first shot. I disagree. We can take care of America and help the world at the same time,” said the president.

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