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Palm Beach County considers incentives to get more people vaccinated against COVID-19

Gift cards, food trucks among ideas considered
Posted at 4:31 PM, Apr 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-28 17:47:23-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — More than five million Florida residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

But most area mass vaccination sites are slated to close in the coming weeks because of a drop in demand, according to health officials.

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As a result, Palm Beach County health officials are considering incentives for those debating whether or not to get the shot.

At the Royal Palm Beach Cultural Center on Wednesday, lines and wait times were short for those getting the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine.

"We were going gangbusters, but now the demand has really fallen off," said infectious disease specialist Dr. David Dodson.

Dr. David Dodson
Dr. David Dodson says demand for the COVID-19 vaccine has dropped significantly because of people hesitant to get the shot.

Dodson is concerned the pace of vaccination is falling off too quickly, both nationally and locally.

Three mass vaccination sites in Palm Beach County will shut down by the end of May. Another mass vaccine site in Indian River County will wrap up Friday.

Those closures are earlier than Dodson and other health experts expected.

"The people who are hesitant to get vaccines, those are becoming more common, and without their help, we're not going to reach a herd immunity number," Dodson.

Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner isn't giving up on herd immunity. He and other county leaders are looking at giving incentives to get people vaccinated.

Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner says Publix gift cards are among the incentives being considered.
Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner

Among the ideas are food trucks to lure younger people to vaccination sites, Publix gift cards and adding to commissary budgets of inmates in the county jail who've been reluctant to get their shots.

"They may be leaving jail soon, so if we can give them a gift card or whatever it may be," Kerner said. "These are the strategies we're looking at right now."

Kerner expects to announce vaccine incentives next week.

Some local businesses are offering time off and gift cards to their workers for shots.

The governor of West Virginia announced people ages 16 to 35 will receive a $100 savings bond when they receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Whether more modest incentives in Florida and Palm Beach County can push the reluctant or the defiant towards getting shots remains an open question.

"It's always that last mile, that last person. That's the most challenging," Kerner said.