Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.
President Joe Biden announced tax credits for some businesses to give paid time off for their employees to get COVID-19 vaccines, according to Reuters.
Businesses will be reimbursed for the cost of giving workers up to 80 hours in paid time off to get their shots and 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,” he said during a speech on Wednesday.
The business tax credit will offer up to $511 per day for each worker through September, Reuters reported. The tax credits will apply to businesses with fewer than 500 employees.
Biden also said the U.S. reached his goal on Wednesday of administering 200 million COVID-19 vaccine doses during his first 100 days in office.
“Today we hit 200 million shots,” he said. “It’s an incredible achievement for the nation.”
The U.S. has shipped 277 million doses, and more than 134 million people have received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to the latest CDC tally updated on Wednesday. More than 87 million people, or 34% of ages 18 and older, are considered fully vaccinated.
About 80% of adults ages 65 and older have received at least one shot, according to the CDC data. More than 35 million older adults, or 66%, are considered fully vaccinated.
Biden said the vaccine effort entered a new phase this week, with everyone ages 16 and older becoming eligible to receive a vaccine on Monday.
“If you’ve been waiting for your turn, wait no longer,” he said.
Biden’s announcement comes as daily vaccination numbers have begun to slow for the first time since February, according to The Washington Post. About 3 million people are receiving shots daily, which is an 11% decrease in the seven-day average from last week. A slight decline in demand seems to be a factor, the newspaper reported. Some counties in several states, including Iowa and Texas, are starting to decline vaccine shipments.
Public health officials have voiced concerns about vaccine hesitancy and barriers to health care that may prevent people from getting a vaccine. They say public health messaging will need to shift to focus on rural residents, homebound seniors and young adults who don’t feel like they need to get vaccinated.
“This will be much more of an intense ground game where we have to focus on smaller events more tailored to address the needs and concerns of focused communities who have different sensitivities and different needs,” Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, told the newspaper.
During Wednesday’s speech, Biden also said he plans to send vaccine doses to other countries once the vaccine supply appears to be sufficient in the U.S.
“We don’t have enough to be confident to send it abroad now,” he said. “But I expect we’re going to be able to do that.”
Biden’s administration is also looking at sharing the doses that the U.S. isn’t using, such as the AstraZeneca vaccines that haven’t yet been authorized by the FDA, according to Bloomberg News. So far, the U.S. has sent 4.2 million AstraZeneca doses to Canada and Mexico. Biden said he spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday about another shipment, and he mentioned helping countries in Central America as well.
“We’re looking at what is going to be done with some of the vaccines that we are not using,” Biden said. “We’ve got to make sure they are safe to be sent.”
Reuters: “Biden offers tax credits for COVID-19 vaccination paid time off.”
CDC: “COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States.”
The Washington Post: “U.S. sees significant drop in vaccinations over past week.”
Bloomberg News: “Biden Says He’ll Send Vaccines Overseas Once Supply Sufficient.”
Need Your Help Today. Your $1 can change life.