President Joe Biden on Wednesday urged U.S. employers to provide workers with paid time off to get a COVID-19 vaccine shot as the country’s high pace of weekly inoculations slipped significantly for the first time.
More than 216 million doses of COVID-19 vaccinations have been administered, and more than 134 million Americans ― 51.5% of adults ― have now had their shots, far outstripping Biden’s initial goal of administering 100 million vaccine doses in his first 100 days in office. On some days in recent weeks, 4 million Americans got jabbed in a single 24-hour period.
But the seven-day average of shots administered per day fell to 3.02 million on Wednesday from a peak of 3.38 million on April 13 ― a decline of about 11%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Washington Post notes the last time vaccination rates fell that much was in February, when dangerous winter storms caused havoc.
The Biden administration is pushing to convince Americans to get vaccinated and wants to make it easier for their employers to provide time off for workers to do so. The initiative announced Wednesday, which would provide smaller companies a tax credit to give their employees paid leave, is the latest White House effort to deal with a more difficult phase of the vaccine rollout after an initial scramble to get vaccinated by eager Americans.
“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. “No working American should lose a single dollar from their paycheck because they chose to fulfill their patriotic duty of getting vaccinated.”
Several factors could be contributing to the vaccination dip, and the White House has declined to link the decline to vaccine hesitancy. But a recent Quinnipiac University poll found 27% of Americans said they do not plan to get a COVID-19 vaccine, with Republicans the most hesitant group (45% of GOP voters said they don’t plan to get one).
Significant levels of vaccine reluctance among those who haven’t gotten jabs could stymie the country’s return to normal.
The CDC notes that about 62 million vaccine doses have been delivered to states, but not used yet. In some states like New Hampshire, 59% of people have been given at least one shot. Others, including Mississippi and Alabama, have only inoculated about 30% of the population.
“If you’re waiting for your turn, wait no longer,″ Biden said. “Now is the time for everyone over 16 years of age to get vaccinated.″
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said polls show vaccine hesitancy is decreasing and moved to characterize any dip in vaccination rates as a problem of access, not concern over the safety of the inoculations.
U.S. regulators paused the use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine to investigate rare reports of blod clots. Officials said supplies of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were sufficient to make up for the J&J stoppage.
The Biden administration reportedly is aware that the supply of vaccines may soon outstrip demand.
A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus