No, don’t look for a cash incentive to get the vaccine in Virginia

COVID-19 Vaccine

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia’s vaccination coordinator doesn’t favor following the lead of other states when it comes to offering cash incentives for people to get the coronavirus vaccine.

Dr. Danny Avula said during a press briefing Friday that while the idea has certainly been discussed, he doesn’t personally believe it’s the best strategy long-term for the state’s population to reach herd immunity.

Rather, he said the state’s health department is still toying with other initiative ideas to encourage people to get the vaccine, including using social media platforms like Snapchat and TikTok.

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden set a goal of having at least 70% of adults vaccinated with their first vaccine dose by July 4.

As of Friday, 65% of Virginians over 18 had received their first dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Avula says that leaves roughly 343,000 people to go to reach the president’s goal.

“We would need to do around 8,000 shots a day,” Avula said.

In recent weeks, demand for the vaccine has continued to drop across the county, even though herd immunity hasn’t yet been reached.

Avula said national research shows that rural conservative-leaning populations that often identify as “evangelical Christians” are one of the larger groups reluctant to take the shots.

Recently, to try to stem that tide, governors in both Ohio and Maryland announced that adults who have received the vaccine or prove they plan to get the vaccine can be eligible for cash giveaways.

While the number of people signing up for the vaccine initially spiked in Ohio following the announcement, Avula said they have already fallen back down.

“I don’t see us doing this large-scale use of federal funds or Virginia funds to incent that way,” Avula said.

While Avula wouldn’t rule out smaller targeted incentives — like issuing state park passes or hunting and fishing licenses –he explained he doesn’t want go overboard incentivizing something that is “inherently good.”

“Is this the kind of precedent we want to set? … There are huge individual and practical incentives to getting vaccinated. The individual incentive being it protects you from getting COVID. It prevents you from hospitalization and death. The practical ones being you no longer have to wear a mask when you are fully vaccinated,” Avula said.

Avula said state health leaders have really turned their focus toward vaccinating what he described as the “younger demographic”: people ages 16-30 where data shows around only 40% of people have received their first shot.

“We’re focused on making it really convenient for young adults who aren’t necessarily against being vaccinated, but aren’t really compelled to go make an appointment or go out of their way to get vaccinated,” Avula said.

Some of the strategies they plan to use include setting up clinics at bars, baseball parks and even job sites.

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