Biden says employers should give paid time off for vaccinations, US set to hit goal of 200M doses in 100 days

Coronavirus

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden announced a new measure offering small businesses a tax incentive to give employees paid time off to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as his administration achieved its goal of 200 million doses in the first 100 days Wednesday.

As of April 21, the CDC reports a total of 215,951,909 vaccine doses have been administered in the U.S., amounting to 199,426,628 since Biden took office. Biden said the country is set to surpass his goal of 200 million doses when the next round of data is released Thursday, his 92nd day in office.

“We’re entering a new phase of our vaccination efforts,” Biden said during a speech at the White House Wednesday, noting that the first months of the rollout were aimed at older people and essential workers. “Now our objective is to reach everyone, everyone over the age of 16 in America.”

With more than 50% of adults at least partially vaccinated and roughly 28 million vaccine doses being delivered each week, demand has eclipsed supply as the constraining factor to vaccinations in much of the country.

During his speech Wednesday, Biden discussed efforts to expand vaccine distribution and access in his first three months in office and outline his administration’s latest plans to motivate more Americans to get shots.

This includes launching a tax credit for small businesses to provide paid leave for those getting vaccinated or potentially needing to take time off to recover from side effects.

“I’m calling on every employer, large and small, in every state, to give employees the time off they need — with pay — to get vaccinated, and any time they need — with pay — to recover if they’re feeling under the weather after the shot,” Biden said.

Paid for through the $1.9 trillion virus relief package passed last month, the tax change would provide a credit of up to $511 per day, per employee for businesses with fewer than 500 workers to ensure that those workers or businesses don’t suffer a penalty by getting vaccinated.

The White House is calling on larger employers, which have more resources, to provide the same benefits to their employees, and to institute vaccine education and encouragement campaigns so that their workers get shots.

“No working American should lose a single dollar from their paycheck because they chose to fulfill their patriotic duty to get vaccinated,” Biden said.

Administration officials have been careful to avoid predicting when the country will have vaccinated enough people to reach herd immunity. The U.S. is on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult by the end of May and for every American by July, but administering the shots will be another matter.

Maximizing the number of Americans vaccinated in the coming months is critical for the White House, which is aiming to restore a semblance of normalcy around the July Fourth holiday and even more so by the beginning of the next school year.

In recent weeks the White House has launched a massive outreach campaign to Americans to get vaccinated, relying on funding from the $1.9 trillion virus relief package passed last month to launch ads and fund direct community engagement to under-vaccinated constituencies.

Through its partnership with more than 40,000 retail pharmacies, the White House says more than 90% of Americans now live within 5 miles of a vaccination site, and the administration is encouraging state and local efforts to bring vaccines directly to people, whether through initiatives reaching the homebound or clinics at large employment sites.

The administration is also using $1.7 billion to create a national network to identify and track worrisome virus mutations whose spread could trigger another pandemic wave. A White House official said last week, the administration is preparing for the possibility that a booster shot will be needed between nine to 12 months after people are initially vaccinated against COVID-19 to help prevent the rise of variants.

Biden set his goal of 200 million shots last month after meeting his 100 million-in-100 days goal just over a month ago. At the time the U.S. was well on pace to meet the higher target, and the pace of vaccinations has only accelerated, to about 3 million shots per day.

The 100 million-dose goal was first announced on Dec. 8, days before the U.S. had even one authorized vaccine for COVID-19, let alone the three that have now received emergency authorization. Still, it was generally seen within reach, if optimistic.

By the time Biden was inaugurated on Jan. 20, the U.S. had already administered 20 million shots at a rate of about 1 million per day, bringing complaints at the time that Biden’s goal was not ambitious enough. Biden quickly revised it upward to 150 million doses in his first 100 days.

Reaching the goal has not been without its hurdles. In a blow to both vaccine supply and vaccine hestinacy, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended pausing the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine for at least a few days to investigate reports of rare but potentially dangerous blood clots, a blow to fighting the pandemic.

The one-shot J&J option was considered an important addition in bringing the vaccine into harder-to-reach populations since it does not require cold storage or a second appointment. More than 6.8 million doses of J&J have been administered, according to the FDA.

A CDC advisory committee did not make a decision related to the pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine. The panel said it would look for more information on the rare but potentially dangerous blood clot cases before voting on whether to continue to recommend pausing the use of the vaccine. 

About 86.2 million people, or 26% of the U.S. population, have been fully inoculated with COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer Inc/ BioNTech SE, Moderna Inc and Johnson & Johnson, according to CDC data. 40.1% of the U.S. population or 133.2 million adults had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

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