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Parson signals he’s willing to try an incentive program to boost Missouri vaccinations

Parson signals he’s willing to try an incentive program to boost Missouri vaccinations

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First responders vaccinated at SLU Hospital

Nellie Dwyer, a registered nurse, puts a band aid on the arm of St. Louis County Police Department Chaplain the Rev. Byron Watson  after he received the COVID-19 vaccine at SSM Health St. Louis University Hospital on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. Photo by Cheyenne Boone, cboone@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri appears poised to join a growing number of states offering incentives for people to get vaccinated.

Although he expressed reluctance to launch such a program, Republican Gov. Mike Parson signaled Wednesday that a plan could be unveiled as early as next week designed to boost the state’s stagnating vaccination rate for COVID-19.

Less than 40% of Missouri’s population has been fully vaccinated, and the figure is less than 20% in some rural counties. McDonald County, in the southwest corner of the state, is at 17%. Douglas County, in southern Missouri, is at 18%.

“Let me be clear, I am not a huge fan of that,” Parson said of an incentive program. “But I also want to move the needle in this state. If it helps, I want to try it. We’re working on that right now.”

A number of other states have tried to boost vaccination rates amid the pandemic.

Oregon, for example, has offered the chance to win $1 million or one of 36 $10,000 prizes. The vaccination rate there is 51.4%.

Neighboring Illinois is giving away $7 million to vaccinated residents. There are three $1 million jackpots and 40 $100,000 prizes. The first drawing is Thursday. Illinois’ vaccination rate is 46.7%.

In St. Louis County, the County Council last week voted 5-2 to approve an $875,000 incentive program to provide gift cards to encourage vaccinations.

Parson said he wants a plan in place that makes a difference in the state’s lagging rate, which is being blamed for a new surge in cases due to the delta variant of the coronavirus.

“We’re not going to force people to take a vaccine in this state. We’re going to try and encourage it. We’re going to try to make sure they know the facts before they take a vaccine,” Parson said.

Along with officials from the Department of Health and Senior Services, the Missouri Lottery has been enlisted to help craft the incentive program.

“I sure want to have the data to support it if we do something like that. It’s not as simple as it may sound,” he said. “Do you really pay somebody to get something they need?”

Dr. Sam Page says in St. Louis County, the seven-day rolling average of COVID-19 cases has jumped by 35 percent in the last week and averaging 90 new cases a day.

Just a few weeks ago, that number was in the low 20s.

The new Delta variant is driving these numbers.

Cases are rising at a faster clip than our vaccination rate. That is not good math and is a formula for a rapid increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations here.

Getting vaccinated is the solution to this growing challenge.

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