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Dubuque County health officials put forward plan for four $10,000 vaccine incentives

Published: Jul. 7, 2021 at 9:34 PM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - Dubuque County’s COVID-19 incident management team has come up with a lottery program to incentivize people into getting vaccinated.

As of Wednesday, 63% of those eligible to get the vaccine in Dubuque County had at least received one dose of the vaccine. Both county and health officials are hoping a lottery incentive program will encourage others to do the same.

”We are quite pleased with that number, but we still want those numbers of vaccines to increase,” Patrice Lambert, director of the Dubuque County Public Health Department, said. “Especially now that we know that the variants that are out there.”

That is why county supervisors asked local public health leaders to come up with an incentive proposal. The result is a series of four lottery drawings of $10,000 each. The first two prizes would be open to all Dubuque County residents fully vaccinated by a date that has yet to be determined. The other two drawings would be open to residents who were fully vaccinated after the first cutoff date.

The plan is now pending approval from the board of supervisors, who will meet on Monday to make a decision.

“If their decision is to move forward, then the incident management team will not play an active part in the incentive program,” Lambert said.

Kevin Dragotto, Dubuque County’s auditor, said that the county is currently looking at who would run the program. The money would come from federal pandemic relief in the American Rescue Plan law.

Black Hawk County has an incentive plan, too, but not with a $10,000 giveaway. They are raffling off gift card baskets worth $500. Since it started about a month ago, they have not seen a big jump in people rolling up their sleeves.

“We are feeling optimistic that we are doing everything we can to encourage vaccination,” Gabbi DeWitt, health communications strategist for the Black Hawk County Public Health Department, said. “And so we are trying to be creative, we are trying to think outside of the box of ways for somebody who maybe is a little hesitant or maybe feels like is just too busy to get vaccinated that this may be the thing that makes them make time and make it a priority.”

Aaron Scherer, an assistant professor at the University of Iowa’s internal medicine department, explained the power of incentives to increase vaccination rates is mixed.

“You might incentivize people who are indifferent or apathetic for getting vaccinated, but you are unlikely to sway people who have safety concerns about the vaccine or are opposed to it for political or religious reasons,” Scherer said. “We do know that things like reminders or a strong provider recommendation tend to have some of the strongest effects on improving vaccine uptake.”

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