Will $25 convince you to get a COVID vaccine? New NCDHHS program aims to increase vaccination rates

NCDHHS announced a new financial incentive pilot program to try and increase COVID-19 vaccinations.

Beginning Wednesday, the state will offer a $25 summer cash card at select vaccine sites in Mecklenburg, Guilford, Rowan and Rockingham counties.

"The more quickly we can get as many people vaccinated in North Carolina, the more quickly we'll be able to bring summer back," said Dr. Charlene Wong, the NCDHHS Chief Health Policy Officer for COVID-19.

Through Sunday, 52.5% of adults in North Carolina are at least partially vaccinated, well below the national rate of 61.5% of adults.

This is the first time the state is offering a financial incentive to get the shots, though private companies and providers have previously and continue to offer varying incentives.

"(NCDHHS) has taken a lot of different approaches to really increase the demand for COVID-19 vaccines, wanting to make it as easy as possible for folks so that it's convenient for them to get a vaccine, and also exploring differing strategies that use incentive programs. The $25 summer cash card is one example of an incentive program," Dr. Wong said.

"I think it's one way to do it, and it will be an effective tool for some people. The people who maybe just need a nudge, who've been on the fence about vaccination," said Dr. Austin Hall, a psychiatrist and associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UNC School of Medicine.

The state will also offer a $25 cash card to people who drive somebody to one of the select vaccine sites to get their shots; they hope the money can help offset travel costs of driving to a vaccine site.

"It combines that with this relationship piece involving the person's family member, or other member of their social network, or member of their spiritual community in supporting them in getting vaccinated and incentivizes both parties," said Dr. Hall.

Furthermore, Dr. Hall suggests getting vaccines to more providers, who tend to have stronger relationships and trust with patients.

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"Those conversations are individualized. And that's a provider who knows kind of what motivates their patient, where the patient might have barriers, where the patient may need education," Dr. Hall said.

Monday night, ABC11 asked people in Durham if they thought the $25 incentive would sway their decision.

Goran has been vaccinated, but was worried the incentive could send the wrong message.

"That's the tricky part. If you're going to pay something to me to do it, I would think 'Oh, wait a second. Why are you paying to do something that is common sense to be done in the first place,''" he said.

Katelynn Smith has not been vaccinated.

"I don't really think that's enough money to make a difference because a lot of people are against getting a vaccine because of the side effects," said Smith.

The program will run through June 8.

"We'll then be very quickly looking at our experience there to help inform how and if we're going to scale this program more broadly in the state," said Dr. Wong.

The cash card is a VISA or Mastercard gift card, and the state partnered with North Carolina State Employees Credit Union to provide and produce the cards, which are usable anywhere.

If you're interested in finding a participating vaccine site, click here.
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