President Joe Biden said Americans had a “patriotic duty” to get vaccinated against Covid-19 as the Omicron variant rages through the United States and praised former President Donald Trump for saying he received his booster vaccine.
The president made the remarks while announcing a series of measures his administration was taking to fight the Omicron variant in the United States, such as buying 500 million at-home tests, which will be free to any American who requests them starting next month, and deploying 1,000 military doctors, nurses, medics and other personnel to overburdened hospitals.
“Folks are asking, what can you do to make yourself and your family feel safer and be safer,” he said. “The answer is simple. Get your booster shot. Wear a mask.”
Mr Biden said that people who were not fully vaccinated had reason to be concerned and are at a high risk of becoming ill, becoming hospitalised and dying.
“You have an obligation to yourselves, to your family and frankly, I know I’ll get criticised for this, to your country,” he said. “Get vaccinated now. It's free, it's convenient. I promise you it saves lives. And I honest to God believe it’s your patriotic duty.”
The president also said that while people who are not vaccinated are responsible for their own choices, but they have been the victims of fearmongering on cable television and misinformation.
“It’s wrong, it’s immoral,” he said in an address on Tuesday. “I call on the purveyors of these lies and misinformation to stop it. Stop it now.”
He also similarly praised Mr Trump for telling an audience of people in Dallas, Texas that he received his booster shot, which was met with boos.
“Maybe one of the few things he and I agree on,” Mr Biden said. “People with booster shots are highly protected. Join them. Join us.”
Mr Biden also praised the Trump administration’s work on Operation Warp Speed to make sure there was a vaccine against Covid-19.
“Thanks to the prior administration, and our scientific community, America is one of the first countries to get the vaccine,” he said.
Still, one reporter noted how health experts said the United States needed to be on better footing when it came to testing. When asked whether it was a failure that not everyone could access a rapid test, the president pushed back.
“I don't think anybody anticipated that this was going to be as rapidly spreading as it did,” he said. “All of a sudden, it was like, everyone was rushing to the counter.”
The president added that he used the Defence Production Act to make tests more accessible.
Mr Biden also said that the surge in cases did not mean a similar scenario to March of 2020, when businesses were shut down.
“The answer is absolutely no. No,” he said, noting how now there was a vaccine available. “They’re protected from hospitalisation. They’re protected from death.”
Similarly, he said that there was better preparation and there was enough of a stockpile of gowns, ventilators and other equipment.
“We know a lot more today than we did in March of 2020,” he said and emphasised that now there was not a need to close schools.
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