WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The U.S. is set to meet President Joe Biden’s latest vaccine goal of administering 200 million coronavirus shots in his first 100 days in office, as the White House continues to step up its efforts to inoculate the rest of the public.
With more than 50% of adults at least partially vaccinated, Biden Wednesday is set to reflect on his efforts to expand vaccine distribution and access in his first three months in the White House. But with all those 16 and older now eligible for shots, the president is expected to outline his administration’s plans to drive up the vaccination rate even further.
Biden is set to deliver remarks on the state of the coronavirus pandemic. Wednesday at 11:15 p.m. FOX31 NOW will livestream the remarks in the player above.
Biden is expected to announce the launch of a new 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. 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.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed the announcements at a press briefing Wednesday saying, “President Biden will call on employers across America to do everything they can to help their employees and their communities get vaccinated; that includes a tax credit for small and medium-sized businesses to fully offset the cost of paid leave for employees to get vaccinated and recover from any after-effects of vaccination if needed.”
Biden was not expected to set new public targets for vaccinations, and 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.