Lawmakers expand efforts to spur COVID-19 vaccinations


TAMPA (WFLA) – Until Wednesday, Jennifer Powell was one of the millions of Americans who had not yet gotten a vaccine shot. But after initially being hesitant, Powell counted four good reasons to push through her fear.

“I have 4 kids, I’m a single Mom,” said Powell. “If something happens to me, my kids have nobody. And also my parents who are older, we haven’t been seeing them as much.”

“But I’d feel comfortable seeing them—seeing my sister who just had a new baby, being able to get back to normal life—with a vaccine, versus just living in fear. A bubble is no place for people to live,” Powell said.

The White House seems to agree, on Wednesday, it announced a new effort to convince businesses to offer paid time off to their employees as an incentive to get the vaccine.

That effort includes a tax credit to small businesses with fewer than 500 employees, offering those businesses more than $500 a day for up to 10 days for employees to get or recover from a COVID-19 vaccine shot.

“Every employee should get paid leave to get a shot, and businesses should know that they can provide it without a hit to their bottom line. There’s no excuse for not getting it done,” said President Joe Biden.

Data show the race to vaccinate Americans may have hit a speed bump.

Vaccinations per day have slowed in the past week just as the CDC and FDA have called for a pause in the distribution of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

But the slowdown may be in the lack of demand, not supply.

Hillsborough County Commissioners voted on Wednesday to give county employees a floating day off to get vaccinated and another two days off as a ‘thank you’ for the past year.

“Which is much-needed during this pandemic,” said District 3 Commissioner Gwen Myers to county administrator Bonnie Wise, who came up with the idea for the days off. “So thank you for thinking of our employees and what they’ve gone through.”

Powell says for her, overcoming her hesitancy took nothing more than weighing the risk versus the reward.

“Knowing several people that had Covid and passed away, I feel like the threat of the vaccine is not nearly as traumatic as actually getting COVID,” Powell said.

Tampa resident Stormy Karlovsky was never hesitant, but she said the same thing is what convinced her parents to get the vaccine.

“Unfortunately, we had a family friend who died of COVID,” said Karlovsky. “He was healthy, and he wasn’t old. I think that kind of shocked [her parents] into taking it more seriously.”

Karlovsky said she feels confident in the vaccine, and hopes everyone will get it.

“I would personally encourage anyone who doesn’t have a medical condition that would prevent it to go get vaccinated,” said Karlovsky. “Because it’s really like the only way we’re going to be able to start doing things and acting normally again.”

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