US President Joe Biden makes a statement of a police shooting in Minnesota in the Oval Office of the White House after a meeting with members of Congress about the American Jobs Plan April 12, 2021, in Washington, DC.
Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images
President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced a tax credit for employers offering vaccine-related paid leave as the White House urges more Americans to seek out Covid shots amid a slight decline in vaccinations.
The tax credit for small- and medium-sized businesses will fully offset the cost of giving employees paid time off to get inoculated, as well as to recover from any potential side effects of vaccination, the White House said.
The Biden administration is also calling on employers to use their resources to encourage vaccinations by sharing accurate information and providing possible incentives, such as product giveaways and discounts for vaccinated people.
"Every employee should get paid leave to get a shot, and businesses should know that they can provide it without a hit to their bottom line," Biden said in a speech at the White House. "There's no excuse for not getting it done."
The tax credit, part of the $1.9 trillion Covid stimulus plan Biden signed into law last month, applies to nearly half of all private sector employees, according to the White House.
For businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 500 employees, the tax credit will cover paid leave for up to $511 per day for up to 10 work days, or 80 work hours, taken between April 1 and Sept. 30, 2021.
Biden announced the tax credit after touting the fact that the U.S. is set to hit 200 million Covid shots administered since he took office.
The president said that if the pace of vaccinations had stayed the same as it was when he took over from former President Donald Trump, it would have taken 220 days to reach the same milestone.
"It's an incredible achievement," Biden said, but "we still have some work to do with our target groups."
The president urged everyone 16 years and older to seek out a Covid vaccine. "If you've been waiting your turn, wait no longer," Biden said. "Now is the time."
The president had originally aimed to achieve 100 million shots in 100 days — a goal that drew criticism for being far too modest. The Biden administration surpassed that number in 58 days.
About 26% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health experts have signaled the percentage required to reach so-called herd immunity is much higher.
But the vaccination rate has dipped slightly in recent days, despite every U.S. adult becoming eligible for a Covid shot as of this week.
The U.S. is reporting an average of 3 million daily vaccinations over the past week, according to CDC data, up from about 1.8 million at the beginning of March.
That level has fallen slightly in recent days, down from a peak of 3.4 million reported shots per day on April 13 to just more than 3 million Tuesday.
The slight dip in the daily pace may be due in part to the ongoing investigation into Johnson & Johnson's vaccine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration earlier this month advised states to suspend the use of J&J's shot "out of an abundance of caution" after six women developed a rare blood clotting disorder.
Though the J&J vaccine makes up less than 4% of the 213 million total vaccines administered in the U.S. to date, it was being used for an average of nearly 425,000 reported shots per day at peak levels in mid-April.
Unlike offerings from Pfizer and Moderna, J&J's vaccine required only one dose, making it ideal for certain communities that may have more difficulty accessing vaccination sites multiple times over the course of several weeks.
Government officials have said the country has enough supply of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to maintain a pace of 3 million shots per day.
The Biden administration has maintained a sense of urgency around vaccinations, stressing that Covid remains a serious threat — especially as highly contagious variants spread through the U.S.
"It's almost a race between getting people vaccinated and this surge that seems to want to increase," top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said earlier this month.