Becerra boosted: US Secretary of Health gets COVID-19 shot in Harlem, responds to Biden’s claim that pandemic is over

US Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Ashwin Vasan received the new Omicron booster in Harlem Monday while also responding to President Joe Biden deeming the pandemic over.

Becerra accompanied Vasan in a joint visit to Pediatrics 2000,a SOMOS–a nonprofit network of over 3,000 doctors serving over 1 million patients from lower income communities of color–medical site located at 3332 Broadway. The pair looked to spread awareness for the BIvalent, the latest booster designed to protect against the BA.4 and BA.5 variants. The officials rolled up their sleeves for Dr. Yomaris Pena who swiftly gave the men the jab. 

US Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Ashwin Vasan joined SOMOS Community Care Co-Founder Dr. Ramon Tallaj in Harlem. Photo by Dean Moses

“COVID-19 vaccines have brought us through the worst of the pandemic – saving millions of lives, keeping countless people out of the hospital, and providing peace of mind for the country. As fall approaches and people spend more time indoors, I encourage everyone who is eligible to get this free updated COVID vaccine to protect themselves and their loved ones, just as they would get an annual flu vaccine. I also encourage all parents to get their children age 6 months and up the free primary COVID-19 vaccine if they haven’t already,” Becerra said, adding that the pain scale of getting the booster is a 0 out of 10.

With the health professionals actively promoting the importance of getting vaccinated in order to save lives, they also responded to questions regarding President Biden’s latest comments on COVID-19. During an appearance on 60 Minutes, Biden declared the pandemic over while also stating that COVID is still a problem that his administration is tackling.

Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Ashwin Vasan. Photo by Dean Moses

“I think the President was reflecting what so many Americans are feeling and thinking that COVID has disrupted our lives for so long. But we’re also finding that with these effective vaccines and masking, with the efforts to protect our children, our seniors, we’ve learned how to cope with this virus. But make no mistake, people are still dying. And what the President is saying is that we all want to get back to where we were before and we’ve done so much to get us back to a place where we can live our lives,” Becerra said. “But we have to continue to do the things that protect us. And I believe the President made it very clear: COVID is still here, we just have to make sure we are smart.”

Despite SOMOS concentrating its efforts on Black and Brown community members, distributing some 2 million vaccines, according to recent NYC DOH city-wide vaccine data, less than 2% of Black and 3% of Latino children under 5 years old have received only one dose of the COVID vaccine. This is something that weighs on the minds of doctors as children return to school.

“Everyone 12 and older, who is more than two months out from their last shot, should get boosted today. There’s never been a better time,” Vasan said.

Photo by Dean Moses