Joe Biden Scrambles to Get U.S. Vaccinated As Delta Variant Grips Country

U.S. President Joe Biden has made an aggressive push to increase vaccinations, signing a directive that will require around 2 million federal employees to disclose whether they have been vaccinated for COVID-19 and he urged states and localities to offer $100 cash incentives to people who get the jab, as the more transmissible Delta variant continues to surge across the country.

As a result of the directive, all federal employees, the country's largest workforce, will have to disclose if they have been vaccinated and if they haven't, they will have to submit to regular testing, on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. This includes the military—Biden also directed the Pentagon to review adding COVID-19 vaccines to the list of required vaccinations for service members.

Biden announced the aggressive new measures at the White House on Thursday.

The president said the renewed push was due to the spread of the Delta variant, made worse by a "pandemic of the unvaccinated." Just under half of the United States is vaccinated, according to government data.

"People are dying and will die who don't have to die," Biden said.

He added that the financial incentives—which states and localities will fund using the $1.9tn American Rescue Plan legislation—may seem unfair to already vaccinated Americans, but "we all benefit if we can get more people vaccinated".

Biden added that the federal government would fully reimburse small- or medium-sized businesses that provide workers with paid time off to get vaccinated.

He stressed that there "is nothing political" about the vaccines, noting that they were developed under the Republican administration of Donald Trump and distributed under his.

The United States has had a tough week in the fight against the pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance on July 27 to mean that vaccinated people must wear masks in indoor areas of high or substantial transmission, as cases climbed to their highest point in three months, with around 60,000 being recorded per day.

Previously, the health agency had said fully vaccinated people "can resume activities that you did before the pandemic without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by laws, rules, regulations, or local guidance."

The latest figures by Our World in Data also revealed that the European Union had overtaken the U.S. in terms of vaccination doses. The 27-member state bloc had administered 102.66 doses per 100 people as of Tuesday, while the U.S. had administered 102.44. The EU also overtook the U.S. in first injections on July 18; currently, 58.2 percent of people across the bloc have received at least one dose, compared with 56.5 percent of Americans.

Despite a relatively high average vaccine rate in the U.S., there have been lower rates in some southern and eastern states such as Florida, Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

On July 26, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs became the first federal agency to make vaccines mandatory for its frontline healthcare staff.

Biden Hosts a Meeting on Gun Violence
U.S. President Joe Biden hosts a meeting about reducing gun violence in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on July 12, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Biden has made an aggressive push to up his country’s vaccinations, signing a directive that will require around 2 million federal employees to disclose whether they have been vaccinated for COVID-19. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images