In a speech at the White House on Thursday, President Biden announced plans for new actions to spur coronavirus vaccinations and slow the spread of the Delta variant in the United States.
The contagious variant is ripping through unvaccinated communities, threatening to undo the progress made by the Biden administration in its first six months. About half of all Americans have been fully vaccinated, but the pace of vaccinations has declined significantly from early spring. Recent research has shown fully vaccinated people are protected against the worst outcomes of Covid-19, including those involving the Delta variant. And cases, hospitalizations and deaths are still a fraction of their devastating winter peaks.
Here are the key points of the plan:
Strengthen protocols for federal employees and contractors. All civilian federal employees will be required to be vaccinated or be forced to submit to regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements, as well as restrictions on most travel. The federal government employs more than 4 million Americans throughout the country and abroad.
Urge vaccination mandates for members of the military. The Department of Defense has been asked to detail when and how they will add the coronavirus vaccine to the list of required vaccinations for members of the military. The president stressed the importance of immunization for service members because American troops serve in countries where vaccination rates are low and Covid-19 is prevalent.
Expand paid leave to enable vaccinations for families and children. Small- and medium-sized businesses will be reimbursed for offering employees paid leave in order to get themselves and their family members vaccinated. Children younger than 12 cannot yet get vaccinated but will likely be eligible later this year.
Call on local and state governments to offer $100 incentives for getting vaccinated. States, territories and local governments are being asked to do more to incentivize vaccination, including offering $100 to those who get the shot. Some states, including New Mexico, Ohio and Colorado, have piloted $100 incentive programs that have helped move the dial on vaccination rates. New York City said this week that the city will begin offering $100 payments, too.
Increase vaccinations for children returning to classrooms. School districts are being encouraged to host at least one pop-up vaccination clinic over the coming weeks, with the goal of increasing vaccination rates among children 12 and older. Mr. Biden said that while almost 90 percent of educators and school staff are vaccinated, he believes every student should have an accessible way to receive a vaccine. The administration is also directing pharmacies in the federal pharmacy program to prioritize children 12 and older, and to work with school districts across the country to host vaccination clinics at schools and colleges.