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HHS debuts ads for updated Covid-19 booster, focusing on adults 50 and older

(CNN) As part of the White House's Covid-19 response plan for the fall, the US Department of Health and Human Services is debuting a video ad to encourage people to get the updated Covid-19 booster shot -- especially those who are 50 and older.

In the new video advertisement from the public education campaign, released Thursday and titled "At Risk," text reads "9 out of 10 Covid deaths were people over 50" and "vaccines lower the risk of death," as music plays in the background. "So get your updated Covid vaccine. Now."

An English version of the ad begins airing on television Thursday, and a Spanish version will air beginning Monday, according to HHS. These ads, first reported on CNN, also will go live on radio and online, and a print campaign is expected Monday.

"These ads highlight the importance of getting updated vaccines, especially for older Americans -- directing them to," Sarah Lovenheim, HHS assistant secretary for public affairs, told CNN in an email. "The HHS COVID-19 Vaccine Public Education Campaign continues to work tirelessly to ensure Americans have the information and access they need to protect themselves from COVID-19."

Between April and June, people 50 and older accounted for the vast majority of Covid-19 hospitalizations (86%) and in-hospital deaths (96%), according to a study published Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But additional CDC data shows that even for those 50 and older who got two of the original boosters, risk of hospitalization was less than a quarter of what it was for those who were unvaccinated in July.

Since authorization of the original version of the Covid-19 vaccines, HHS has been rolling out public service announcements and paid advertisements to encourage people to get immunized. The first set of HHS's Covid-19 vaccination ads debuted last year in April. The campaign has developed and launched more than 5,000 ads in 14 languages, and it has partnered with more than 1,000 organizations.

Previous Covid-19 vaccination ads showed heartwarming scenes of friends hugging and socializing after getting vaccinated, with upbeat music playing in the background, or emotional testimonials from unvaccinated Covid-19 survivors who had been hospitalized. The most recent previous PSA, released in June, encouraged parents to get their children 6 months and older vaccinated against Covid-19.

The Biden administration has been pushing to acknowledge that Covid-19 vaccines could become a more routine part of our lives, as the nation may need to administer an updated booster every year since the coronavirus probably will continue to circulate for the foreseeable future.

The updated vaccines replace the booster shots previously offered for people 12 and older.

There's no plan to phase out the earlier vaccines used in the primary series, Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the US Food and Drug Administration, said in August. But he described this as a "transitional year," when people need to make sure they have a "good base upon which we build ... which will help protect us against the unknown."

An annual Covid-19 vaccine would be similar to how the seasonal flu shot is given annually.

"For a majority of Americans, one shot a year will provide a very high degree of protection against serious illness, and that's what we've got to be focused on," Dr. Ashish Jha, White House coronavirus response coordinator, told CNN last week. "Maybe for some high-risk people -- the elderly, the immunocompromised -- they may need protection more than once a year, but for a majority of Americans, that's where it is, and I think that's a really good place to be."

How to get your updated Covid-19 vaccine

The updated Covid-19 vaccine and seasonal flu vaccines are available at most pharmacies, doctor's offices and health care clinics.

The government website allows people to search for where vaccines are being administered, and appointments can be booked over the phone or online.

The updated Pfizer/BioNTech booster is authorized for people 12 and older, and the updated Moderna booster is authorized for adults 18 and older.

A single dose of the updated Covid-19 vaccine is recommended at least two months after completing the initial two-dose vaccine series or your most recent booster.

"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," HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement last week.

"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," he said. "We now have another opportunity to get ahead of this pandemic and we will continue working every day to get everyone protected from COVID-19."

CNN's Deidre McPhillips and Carma Hassan contributed to this report.