Washington – US President Joe Biden has called for states to give $100 (£71) to the newly vaccinated in an effort to address flagging jab rates amid virus surges.
The president also issued a strict new vaccine requirement for US federal workers, the nation’s largest workforce with some two million people.
The order requires employees to show proof of vaccination or be subjected to mandatory testing and masking.
It serves as guidance for private businesses hoping to return to office.
Speaking from the White House on Thursday, Biden said that the new measures and incentives are a result of rising numbers of the highly contagious Delta variant, made worse by a “pandemic of the unvaccinated”.
Biden added that the $100 incentive may seem unfair to already vaccinated Americans, but “we all benefit if we can get more people vaccinated”. The funding for these payments would come from the president’s $1.9tn American Rescue Plan.
He said that the federal government will also be “fully reimbursing” small or medium-sized businesses that provide workers paid time off to get vaccinated.
Last month, a study showed that over 99% of Covid-19 deaths have been among unvaccinated.
Just under half of the country is fully vaccinated, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Nearly 70% of adults have received at least one jab.
“People are dying and will die who don’t have to die,” Biden said while announcing the new rule for government civilian workers. Mr Biden noted the policy would not result in any workers losing their jobs if they chose to not get vaccinated.
The Democratic president also emphasised there “is nothing political” about the vaccines, which were developed and authorised under a Republican administration and further distributed under his.
The Department of Veterans Affairs on Tuesday become the first federal agency to require that their healthcare staff be vaccinated.
It comes as US Covid deaths climb to around 2 000 per week. New cases are now at their highest point in the last three months, with about 60 000 being recorded per day. (BBC)