Oregon and Benton County offer COVID-19 vaccine incentives

Kelsy Valentine, News Contributor

Following the lead of many other states, both the state of Oregon and Benton County have begun offering vaccine incentives to help encourage residents to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

One incentive that the state of Oregon is offering residents is through the Take Your Shot campaign, which gives Oregonians 18 or older the chance to win either $1 million or $10,000 from their county of residence. Oregonians ages 12 to 17 will have a chance to win one of five $100,000 Oregon College Savings Plan scholarships.

“The Take Your Shot Oregon campaign is meant to be a fun way to give Oregonians thinking about getting vaccinated against COVID-19 a little extra incentive to go get their shot, and to thank them for getting vaccinated,” said Charles Boyle, the deputy communications director for Governor Kate Brown via email.

The drawing for the Take Your Shot campaign will take place on June 28 and all individuals who receive at least their first dose before or on June 27 will automatically be entered into the drawing. According to Boyle, the impact of the Take Your Shot Oregon campaign is still unknown, but they’re looking to Ohio as an example, which is conducting a similar lottery with cash prizes.

However, the main focus of these incentive programs is on the individual counties. Boyle said they’ve incentivized local governments by telling them they could reduce restrictions to the lower risk level once 65% of the county has received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. As of June 10, 63.8% of Benton County residents above the age of 12 have received at least one dose of the vaccine. 

“We are sending grants to these communities to help them personalize incentives that will work best to reach people in their cities and counties,” Boyle said. “Some of the best incentives will be those sponsored by local businesses, and we have heard a wide range of ideas from the business community about discounts, tickets, prizes and other incentives for vaccinated customers.”

The governor’s office even announced on May 24 that businesses and venues in lower risk counties can create vaccinated sections with no physical distancing or capacity limits for individuals who can verify their vaccination status.

In response to the incentives issued by the Oregon government, Benton County has started offering their own incentives, including the Teen Day event, which was held on May 20, one week after youth ages 12 to 15 became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The clinic featured a graffiti wall for teens to share their COVID-19 related experiences, motivations for vaccination and things they look forward to getting back to post-vaccination,” said April Holland, the deputy director for the Benton County Health Department via email.“Individuals vaccinated at this clinic had the opportunity to enter a drawing for one of several prizes including gift cards, a chromebook and airpods.”

According to Holland, during the Thursday and Friday of the week before the Teen Day event, over 900 youths between the ages of 12 and 15 were vaccinated in anticipation of the event and the possibility of winning a prize.

“During the Teen Day event, we vaccinated 483 youth ages 12 to 15 and 87 between 16 to 18,” Holland said. “I consider the Teen Day clinic a huge success and am grateful to our staff, partners and volunteers who made it happen.”

Holland said Benton County is focusing on encouraging racial and ethnic subgroups to receive their vaccines. Government officials are trying to provide as many opportunities for vaccination as possible for these subgroups as well as those in geographic disparities.

“We are presently focused on our educational outreach to build confidence in vaccination, particularly in our [Black, Indigenous and Persons of Color] populations,” said Bruce Thomson, a Benton County health officer via email. “Interestingly, in Benton County, our Native American and Alaskan native populations have a high rate of acceptance of the vaccine.”

According to Thomson, offering cash or other incentive programs are somewhat successful in certain counties to encourage individuals to receive the vaccine.  

With the help of these incentive programs, the governor’s office is hoping to reach the statewide goal of reopening the economy by the end of June by having 70% of all Oregonians over the age of 18 with at least their first vaccination dose. 

“It is because so many Oregonians have stepped up to get vaccinated that we are able to begin lifting health and safety restrictions across the state––vaccines truly are the key to a return to a sense of normalcy,” Boyle said.

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