The wildfire-like spread of the Omicron variant has spurred some municipalities and corporations to once again start paying people to protect themselves against COVID-19.
Cash incentives and gift cards are being offered to people who get vaccinated or receive booster shots, with some states focusing on schoolchildren, while others try to persuade seniors who have avoided inoculation so far to change their mind.
New York City is the latest to bring back cash offers. Mayor Bill De Blasio on Tuesday announced a $100 incentive for people who get a booster shot between now and Dec. 31 at any city or SOMOS clinic.
It’s not quite the $126,000 lottery incentive South Africa is touting, but we’ve come a long way from free doughnuts.
Here’s a look at some of the cities, states, and companies that are renewing efforts to motivate people to be as protected as possible for this latest phase of the pandemic.
Baltimore is not offering a financial incentive to all citizens, but the city did, earlier this month, authorize a one-time $1,000 payment to government workers who are fully vaccinated. The payouts will be given to any government employee who reaches fully vaccinated status by Jan. 14, 2022.
New York City
In the week leading up to Dec. 18, roughly one out of every 200 people in New York City tested positive for COVID. To fight further spread, Mayor Bill De Blasio revived the $100 incentive, this time for booster shots received by Dec. 31 at eligible clinics around town.
Louisiana has regularly extended its $100 vaccination incentive, and the rise of Omicron earned it an even longer life. Residents now have until Dec. 31 to get their vaccine at a participating community-based site. For those efforts, they’ll receive a $100 gift card. (To date, more than 34,000 have been distributed.)
With just 61% of the population partially vaccinated, Missouri is one of the most vaccine-hesitant states. And the incentive program there is underutilized, but it’s still up and running. Officials earmarked $11 million in $100 gift cards for the vaccinated, but have handed out only a fraction of those, as just 20 of the 115 eligible health departments in the state have opted into the program. Funding for that program ends on Dec. 31, but gift cards can be issued into next year.
Rather than targeting hesitant adults, who often aren’t persuaded to get a vaccine or booster for cash, officials in Vermont are focusing on schoolchildren, with a new incentive program for schools that will pay per vaccinated student through April 1, 2022. Schools that see an 85% vaccination rate for eligible students will receive $15 per student, for a minimum award of $2,000 and a maximum of $10,000, with those that have a better than 90% vaccination rate having an opportunity to receive $15,000.
Gov. Jim Justice is focusing on the opposite end of the spectrum. Only 26% of West Virginia’s 50 and over population has gotten a booster shot, leading the state to offer a $50 incentive for them to do so.
“I don’t know of anything that could be more foolish than not going to get your booster shot,” said Justice. “How in the world if you got your first shots can you not run to get your booster?”
The nation’s largest retailer is bringing back its incentive program, offering $150 after associates become fully vaccinated. The company is also extending its COVID-leave policy, giving workers up to two weeks of paid leave if they have COVID-19 or are required to quarantine by a health care provider.
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