Biden Touts Tax Credit to Prod Businesses on Workers’ Shots

President Joe Biden called on employers to use a tax credit to provide paid time off to workers to get vaccinated and for businesses to do more to boost the inoculation effort as the U.S. seeks to get shots in more arms.

Biden said the U.S. will achieve its goal on Wednesday of giving 200 million vaccine shots in his first 100 days in office, while pivoting to a new phase of the campaign by urging businesses to make vaccination as accessible as possible.

Biden called on every employer in the U.S. to offer full pay to workers taking time off to get a shot, and touted an incentive included in last month’s Covid-19 aid package that provides tax credits for workers’ wages in companies with fewer than 500 employees.

“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,” Biden said.

The Internal Revenue Service published details on the tax-credit plan on Wednesday. Employers can claim the credits for leave taken to receive or recover from Covid-19 vaccinations from April 1 through Sept. 30, the agency said.

Shifting Focus

The Biden administration is shifting its public focus from increasing supplies of vaccines to persuading people to get shots. That’s taking place as available shots have exceeded demand in some places. The administration is concerned that it won’t be able to control the virus if a sizable part of the population fails to get vaccinated.

“The time is now to open up a new phase of this historic vaccination effort,” Biden said, noting that many hadn’t been eligible to get vaccinated until recently. “If you’ve been waiting for your turn, wait no longer.”

Biden urged people to get shots, saying the “vaccine can save your life,” along with those of friends, relatives and others. He said 90% of Americans can get shots within 5 miles of where they live.

Biden said he wants to share coronavirus vaccines with other countries but won’t begin sending doses abroad until the U.S. has sufficient supply at home. “We don’t have enough to be confident to send it abroad now,” Biden said. “But I expect we’re going to be able to do that.”

Biden said the 200-million shot milestone in the U.S. will be reflected in data released on Thursday.

The tax credit -- covering 100% of up to $511 in daily wages per employee for those small- and medium-sized firms -- is intended to spur people to become vaccinated, which in turn encourages others to get a shot, said administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity. The administration isn’t planning similar incentives for large companies, one official said.

About a third of employees at the nation’s smallest companies, with fewer than 50 employees, lack access to paid sick leave, federal data show. By contrast, 90% of workers at companies with 500 employees or more have paid sick leave. However, federal officials said that some companies with paid leave might not allow its use for vaccinations.

Pandemic Fight

Biden’s administration is facing fresh challenges in its fight against the pandemic. Use of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine was paused in the U.S. earlier this month after reports of six blood clot cases, one of them fatal, amid roughly 7 million doses administered so far.

Production at a vaccine plant in Baltimore has also been delayed, slowing the supply of J&J’s vaccine and displacing manufacturing of AstraZeneca Plc’s shot entirely. AstraZeneca’s vaccine has not yet been authorized for use in the U.S.

Production at the Emergent BioSolutions Inc. will remain on hold, U.S. regulators said in a report posted Wednesday, after an inspection turned up multiple problems.

Biden has abandoned his pledge of having enough shots for every U.S. adult by May -- a goal he set because of the J&J shot’s authorization -- and instead now says there will be enough for everyone who wants one, a lower bar.

“We remain confident in our ability to meet the needs that we feel will be out there in the public by the end of May,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday. She added that there will be enough supply from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. due by the end of July for 300 million people. “So we are confident we’ll be able to meet the demand in the public.”

J&J says it will still provide 100 million shots to the U.S. government, but is no longer saying when it will do so. It had previously promised them by the end of June.

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