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WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Wednesday will call on businesses to give workers paid leave to get a COVID-19 vaccine, an entreaty he’s expected to make when announcing the United States is meeting early his goal of administering 200 million shots in his first 100 days.
That milestone will be reached on Thursday, according to an administration official who previewed Biden's remarks on condition of anonymity.
With more than half of adults, and more than 81% of seniors, having gotten at least one shot, the administration is turning its attention to workers.
Only 43% of working adults have received a shot, according to the administration official, who said surveys show incentives like gift cards or paid time off can be particularly motivating.
The $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that passed Congress last month included tax credits to reimburse small businesses for giving employees paid leave to get vaccinated or to recover from any after-effects.
The IRS is expected on Wednesday to post instructions for how businesses can claim the credit, worth up to $511 per pay off per worker. The reimbursement is available to companies with fewer than 500 workers, covering nearly half of all private sector employees.
Helped by states and pharmacies, many large employers are already hosting vaccine clinics for workers.
Vaccines will increasingly be going to where people are, according to the administration official, in contrast to the initial rollout when demand greatly exceeded supply and people would willingly drive long distances to get an appointment. That could help officials reach younger people who are less at risk of serious illness and may need a more convenient and simpler process to get vaccinated.
While Biden is urging employers to help protect the workforce, the federal government is staying clear of imposing mandates.
But the administration is encouraging businesses to provide both vaccination information and incentives beyond their own workers, such as through product giveaways and public service announcements.
All adults ages 16 and older became eligible for vaccination in every state on Monday.
Before taking office, Biden pledged to get 100 million vaccines into the arms of Americans in his first 100 days, a goal many considered lofty given the patchwork federal response he inherited and the fact that no vaccine had been authorized for use at the time.
But the quick pace of vaccinations in January led health experts to question whether the 100 million goal was too low. CDC data showed the country already had surpassed that pace by late January.
Last month, Biden opened his first formal news conference by setting a new goal of administering 200 million COVID vaccine shots in his first 100 days in office.
“I know it’s ambitious, twice our original goal,” he said. “But no other country in the world has even come close. Not even close to what we're doing. I believe we can do it.”
Biden will reach his 100th day in office next week.