The White House on Wednesday launched a six week sprint aimed at convincing Americans to get their updated COVID-19 vaccine before the end of the year.
The administration said the focus of the campaign will be on seniors and vulnerable communities hardest hit by the virus.
Public health officials have repeatedly warned that the U.S. will likely face another wave of COVID-19 infections as the weather gets colder and people travel and gather for the holidays. White House officials had previously called for the public to get booster shots in time for Halloween.
The government has purchased 171 million doses of the updated vaccine. But well into November, uptake of the new booster shots has been extremely low, frustrating health experts and officials.
“Please, for your own safety, for that of your family, get your updated COVID-19 shot as soon as you’re eligible to protect yourself, your family, and your community,” White House medical advisor Anthony Fauci said Tuesday.
About 35 million people in the U.S. have gotten the updated shots, about 11 percent of those aged five and older, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The administration said it will direct its limited remaining resources into a $475 million campaign for community health centers and community-based organizations to increase the pace of vaccinations.
More than 70,000 locations are offering the updated COVID-19 vaccines, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is aiming to expand to even more locations.
HHS said it will invest $350 million into community health centers, which they can use for “mobile, drive-up, walk-up, or community-based vaccination events, partnerships with community and faith-based organizations for vaccination activities, raising awareness of the updated shot, and more.”
“We’re doubling down on our trusted messengers’ work because we know that makes a difference,” White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha said.
The administration will also invest $125 million for efforts to get more older Americans and people with disabilities vaccinated, including through accessible vaccination clinics, in-home vaccinations, transportation, outreach and education.
In an effort to ensure nursing homes are offering updated COVID-19 vaccines and timely treatment to their residents and staff, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will make clear that nursing homes with low vaccination rates will be referred to state survey agencies “for close scrutiny,” and that facilities that do not comply with the requirement to offer and educate staff on the shot “will face enforcement actions, including the need to submit corrective action plans to achieve compliance.”
The funding for the new campaign push comes as the White House is calling on Congress to include about $10 billion in supplemental funding for COVID-19 response as part of the must-pass government funding bill.