Biden Pushes New Vaccine Policies, Incentives as Virus Cases Surge, Vaccination Rates Slow

President Joe Biden is beefing up efforts to increase COVID-19 vaccinations, instituting new requirements for federal employees and urging state and local governments to use coronavirus relief funds for $100 payouts to people who get a shot.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its recommendation for areas that are seeing virus infection rates resurge, recommending that people who are vaccinated still need to wear masks while indoors in those areas. The change was a reversal from the CDC's previous guidance, which suggested those who have gotten vaccinated no longer need to use face coverings.

Biden unveiled his latest plans for increasing vaccination rates during a public address on Thursday.

"Vaccines are safe and highly effective," he told reporters. "There's nothing political about them."

Under the new plan, every federal government employee and on-site contractor will be asked to attest to their vaccination status—something that hadn't previously been done on a government-wide basis. If they refuse or haven't been vaccinated, they'll be required to undergo regular testing. He will also direct the Department of Defense to look into adding COVID-19 shots to the list of required vaccinations for military members.

More than 163 million people in the United States have been vaccinated from COVID-19—a disease that has killed nearly 610,000 people across the country. A new variant of the virus has been attributed behind the surge and rapid spread that has even led to some vaccinated people to test positive.

Biden announced he is also expanding federal reimbursements for businesses to give their employees time off for vaccinations and calling on schools to host vaccination "pop-up" events to increase shots for teens and young adults.

To encourage vaccinations in recent months, several states, cities and private businesses have held giveaways for people who get the shots. West Virginia has started a $1 million lottery for people who get vaccinated, while bars across the country have held "shots for shots" giveaways.

But vaccination rates have slowed and virus cases are surging, so Biden wants to take efforts a step further. He urged states, territories and local governments to do even more to incentivize vaccination, including offering $100 to people who get a shot.

"I know that paying people to get vaccinated might sound unfair to folks that have gotten vaccinated already but here's the deal: if incentives help us beat this virus, I believe we should use them," Biden said. "We all benefit if we can get more people vaccinated."

Joe Biden promotes vaccine incentives
President Joe Biden is instituting new COVID-19 vaccination requirements for federal employees. Above, Biden speaks at Mack Truck Lehigh Valley Operations on July 28 in Macungie, Pennsylvania. Michael M. Santiago/getty Images