Biden credits mandates for rise in US vaccination numbers

President focusing Covid-19 response on boosters, the unvaccinated and soon-to-be eligible kids

US President Joe Biden delivers an update on the Covid-19 response and vaccination programme. AP
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US President Joe Biden on Wednesday touted the progress of his plan announced last month to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in the US.

Nationally, cases are down 47 per cent and hospitalisations are down 38 per cent.

"It's working, we're making progress," Mr Biden said.

Mr Biden's remarks came as the US Food and Drug Administration's advisory panel unanimously voted to recommend Moderna's booster shot for individuals aged 65 and older as well as high-risk individuals. The shots should be given six months after the initial inoculation, the panel said.

But 66 million Americans remain unvaccinated. Mr Biden said it is essential that this group gets vaccinated as the US begins to turn the corner.

The effort to inoculate children could also begin soon, with the FDA and Centres for Disease Control to deliberate on whether the vaccine should be authorised for youngsters between ages 5 and 11.

"Families will be able to sleep easier at night knowing their kids are protected as well," Mr Biden said.

Pfizer said a recent large-scale trial showed its pediatric vaccine is safe and effective for that age group.

Mr Biden last month announced policies requiring most healthcare workers and federal employees to get Covid-19 vaccinations and push large employers to have their workers inoculated or tested weekly, but the federal rules to put the mandate into effect are still being formalised.

Some states and large employers have mandated vaccines already.

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said his company had vaccinated 99.7 per cent of the airline's 67,000 US employees.

"Every day we see more businesses implementing vaccination requirements, and the mounting data shows that they work," Mr Biden said.

The White House increasingly has viewed employer vaccination mandates as critical to ending the pandemic, but the efforts have faced resistance in some states.

Texas Governor Gregg Abbott on Monday signed an executive order banning private employers and other entities from enforcing Covid-19 vaccination mandates. The mandates, Mr Abbott said, threaten an economic recovery by disrupting the workforce.

Mr Abbott's executive order will prove to be an early test for Mr Biden, whose plan last month requires roughly 100 million American workers to either get vaccinated or be subjected to weekly testing.

American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have both announced they will comply with the federal government mandate, defying Mr Abbott's order.

"Let's be clear. Vaccination requirements should not be another issue that divides us," Mr Biden said, referring to a recent disinformation campaign in which US conservatives launched unsupported claims that a Southwest flight disruptions were protests against the federal vaccination requirements.

Mr Biden has also made the accessibility of booster shots a key focus in his plan to combat the virus, which was announced as the Delta variant raged throughout the US this summer, reminding the public that they are free to any eligible American.

Biden gets Pfizer booster shot

Biden gets Pfizer booster shot

The FDA advisory committee will meet again on Friday to deliberate the need for Johnson and Johnson's booster vaccine. The panel will also discuss a study on mixing different vaccines, a practice that the US National Institutes of Health said is safe and effective.

Last month the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention approved the use of Pfizer's booster shot for some groups.

“We took a key step in protecting the vaccinated with booster shots, which our top government doctors believe provides the highest level of protection available to date,” Mr Biden said at the time.

To date, more than 700,000 in the US have died from the virus, data from Johns Hopkins University shows.

Updated: October 14, 2021, 7:46 PM