At his final White House press briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci made one last plea to Americans to get the updated COVID-19 booster shots.

“We know it’s safe. We know that it is effective. So my message, my final message — it may be the final message I give you from this podium — is please, for your own safety, for that of your family, get your updated COVID-19 booster shot as soon as you’re eligible to protect yourself, your family and your community,” Fauci said.

Fauci, who is retiring as President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser at the end of the year after a half-century of government service, urged the public to get the new booster dose “as soon as possible” even as he and other administration officials said they’re not expecting a repeat of last winter’s COVID-19 surge.

A year ago, the highly transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus emerged, eventually sending cases soaring to record-breaking levels that overwhelmed testing sites and forced hospitals to turn away patients throughout the U.S., including in Utah.

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Now, although new versions of the virus continue to surface, the hope is that Americans can be ready.

“Nothing I have seen in the subvariants makes me believe that we can’t manage our way through it effectively, especially if people step up and get their vaccine,” Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, said.

But Americans have been slow to get the first COVID-19 booster shot to target currently circulating versions of the virus in addition to the original strain, available to anyone 5 and older. According to The New York Times, the administration has purchased nearly five times as many doses as the 35 million already administered.

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While nearly 64% of Utahns have gotten the initial series of COVID-19 shots, less than 10% are considered up-to-date on their vaccinations because they’ve received the updated booster, or, if they’re under 5 years old, the initial shots, according to the Utah Department of Health and Human Services.

Fauci also spoke to the politicization of COVID-19 vaccinations. After he pushed back against misinformation about the virus from then-President Donald Trump and others while advocating for aggressive action to slow its spread, Fauci himself has become a target.

Seeing Americans “not getting vaccinated for reasons that have nothing to do with public health, but have to do (with) the divisiveness and ideological differences, as a physician, it pains me. Because I don’t want to see anybody get infected. I don’t want to see anybody hospitalized. And I don’t want to see anybody die from COVID,” he said.

“Whether you’re a far-right Republican or a far-left Democrat,” Fauci said, “it doesn’t make any difference to me.”