President Biden on Wednesday is expected to call on every employer in America to give their employees paid time off to get vaccinated, the administration’s latest move to try and persuade more than half of the nation’s adults who have yet to get a dose to do so.
Mr. Biden will also announce a paid leave tax credit to offset the cost for companies with fewer than 500 employees, according to senior administration officials, who previewed the announcement on condition of anonymity.
The announcement will come in conjunction with an address by the president to mark what his aides are calling a major milestone: 200 million shots in the arms of the American people, with a week to go before the president’s 100th day in office. As of Tuesday, more than 196 million doses have been administered across the country beginning Jan. 20, according to data as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But the distribution of those shots in uneven: While New Hampshire has given at least one shot to 59 percent of its citizens (a percentage that includes children, most of whom are not yet eligible), Mississippi and Alabama at 30 percent.
A senior administration official described the initiative to involve the private sector as the “next big opportunity” and said employers will be especially effective in reaching out to that large percentage of working Americans who are still unvaccinated.
About 30 percent of unvaccinated employees said they are more likely to get a shot with an incentive like a gift card, or paid time off, officials said.
While many big companies have researched vaccine mandates, most have found that to be counter-productive and chosen to incentivize the vaccine instead.
But with Republicans arguing that mandates amount to an intrusion on personal liberty, the White House is steering clear of the discussion, saying the decision to require vaccination or proof of it will be left to individual employers. And with the economy gearing up, managers are reluctant to demand inoculation, fearing too many employees would seek work elsewhere.
State health officials, business leaders, policymakers and politicians are struggling to figure out how to tailor their messages, and their tactics, to persuade not only the vaccine hesitant but also the indifferent. The work will be labor intensive, much of it may fall on private employers — but the risk is clear: if it takes too long to reach “herd immunity” — the point at which the spread of the virus slows — worrisome new variants could emerge that evade the vaccine.