Prepare for new COVID-19 variants: Biden tells pandemic-weary Americans

Prepare for new COVID-19 variants: Biden tells pandemic-weary Americans

Washington: President Joe Biden has urged Americans to prepare themselves for new coronavirus variants as he launched a new initiative aimed at helping COVID-19-infected people to get tested at a nearby pharmacy and receive free antiviral pills on the spot.

In his first State of the Union Address on Tuesday, Biden said thanks to the progress the country has made last year, COVID-19 need no longer controls the lives of the Americans.

We must prepare for new variants. Over the past year, we've gotten much better at detecting new variants. If necessary, we'll be able to deploy new vaccines within 100 days instead of many more months or years, Biden told pandemic-weary Americans.

"And, if Congress provides the funds we need, we'll have new stockpiles of tests, masks, and pills ready if needed. I cannot promise a new variant won't come. But I can promise you we'll do everything within our power to be ready if it does, he said.

"I know some are talking about living with COVID-19'. Tonight I say that we will never just accept living with COVID-19, he added.

The president said the US will continue to combat the virus, like other diseases, and will stay on guard because this is a virus that mutates and spreads.

He listed out four steps to move forward safely.

The US is the worst-affected country from the deadly pandemic which was first reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late December, 2019. The US has reported over 79,088,500 confirmed cases and more than 952,600 COVID-related deaths, according to latest statistics from Johns Hopkins University.

"First, stay protected with vaccines and treatments. We know how incredibly effective vaccines are. If you're vaccinated and boosted, you have the highest degree of protection. We will never give up on vaccinating more Americans. Now, I know parents with kids under 5 are eager to see a vaccine authorised for their children, he said.

"The scientists are working hard to get that done and we'll be ready with plenty of vaccines when they do. We're also ready with anti-viral treatments. If you get COVID-19, the Pfizer pill reduces your chances of ending up in the hospital by 90%, he said.

Biden said his administration has ordered more of these pills than anyone in the world, asserting that Pfizer is working overtime to get US 1 million pills this month and more than double that next month.

He said the US is launching Test to Treat initiative so that people can get tested at a pharmacy, and if they're positive, receive antiviral pills on the spot at no cost.

"If you're immunocompromised or have some other vulnerability, we have treatments and free high-quality masks. We're leaving no one behind or ignoring anyone's needs as we move forward. And on testing, we have made hundreds of millions of tests available for you to order for free, he said.

A White House official told reporters that as the President highlighted in his State of the Union address that the administration has worked with Pfizer to accelerate delivery of its antiviral pills that reduce the chances of being hospitalised with COVID-19 by 90 per cent.

"In March, we will have one million pills available and we'll have more than double that in April. As supply keeps ramping up, it's important that those who test positive can get treated quickly and easily, said the official.

To that end, President Biden announced the launch of a nationwide Test to Treat Initiative' to minimise the time between a positive test result and receiving effective COVID-19 treatment, including antiviral pills and monoclonal antibodies. Under this programme, people can get tested at local pharmacies and community health centers and receive antiviral pills right on the spot, the official said.

The Administration will be launching these one-stop shops this month, with hundreds of sites opening nationwide including at pharmacy clinics at places like CVS, Walgreens, and Kroger. The Administration will continue to grow the programme over time, the official said.

The Initiative will also include new actions to educate the public about the availability of new treatments and the importance of starting them soon after the onset of symptoms; provide information to health care providers about these new treatments; and distribute antiviral pills directly to long-term care facilities.

Additionally, as a part of his effort to expand access to free, at-home testing, the president announced that, starting next week, households that have already ordered tests through can place an order for an additional four tests to be delivered to their home for free.

This programme has already delivered more than 270 million free tests to over 68 million households in America with most tests delivered by USPS within 48 hours of being shipped, said the official.

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