Updated August 18, 2021 - 7:37 am
Clark County plans to give $100 gift cards to people who get vaccinated, as lawmakers on Tuesday moved forward with a pilot program that aims to increase immunization rates in Southern Nevada.
The trial incentive program, proposed by Commissioner Tick Segerblom, will allocate $100,000 from federal coronavirus relief funding to give Visa gift cards to up to 1,000 people, Segerblom said.
The price tag of the trial does not factor in administrative costs. And Segerblom challenged Gov. Steve Sisolak to offer $300,000 more to the effort.
Locales throughout the U.S. have offered cash incentives to try to boost vaccination numbers, including the state of Nevada, which has held a statewide raffle offering cash prizes since July. President Joe Biden has also encouraged states to offer $100 to those who get immunized.
As of Tuesday, 49.5 percent of Nevadans 12 and older — the age group eligible for inoculation — have been fully vaccinated. Slightly more than 51 percent have done the same in Clark County.
Nearly 65 percent of those eligible in the county have initiated vaccinations, according to the Southern Nevada Health District.
Despite County Manager Yolanda King’s strong recommendation that officials reserve gift cards only for people who were becoming fully vaccinated, Segerblom was adamant that the incentive should be offered to anyone getting a first dose, too.
“The problem is, we’re just trying to get people to get vaccinated. And I think if we’re trying to make this, ‘second dose,’ we’re making things too complicated,” Segerblom said. “You just want to be able to show up, if you want a dose — first or second — here’s a gift card. You get it in your arm and you’re off.”
In making a pitch Tuesday for the test run in Southern Nevada, Segerblom offered examples of jurisdictions that have seen $100 incentive programs significantly increase vaccination rates, including New York City, Minnesota and New Mexico.
Offering $100 for a first shot was not uncommon among those jurisdictions.
Most county lawmakers, even those skeptical about how effective the program would be, were receptive to giving it a shot. With $440 million in American Rescue Plan funds at the county’s disposal to respond to the pandemic, some commissioners acknowledged that the pilot program was a modest effort to get more people immunized.
“While this may not be the preferred way to do it, to many of us, we need to continue to press for anything that will increase our numbers,” Commissioner Jim Gibson said.
Key program details still need to be worked out between county and public health officials, including where and when the gift cards would be provided.
Segerblom suggested giving them out during a single weekend of events to be held by the middle of September. He said he wants to target vulnerable areas with low vaccination rates, such as east Las Vegas.
The cards will be given to anyone 18 years and older or to the parents or guardians of minors between 12 and 17 years old, he said.
The prospect of providing an incentive to someone who only initiated a vaccination raised at least one question: Would they return for a second dose?
Commissioner William McCurdy II said he wanted to track that data and more as officials seek to determine whether the program will be worth expanding.
McCurdy also questioned whether a person awarded a gift card after a first shot could receive another card upon getting a second dose, turning the program effectively into a $200 incentive. It was not immediately clear how such a situation would be handled.
Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick cited lingering questions, including how officials would verify that someone has not already been immunized, in opposing the test program.
Kirkpatrick said she also could not support spending at least $100,000 when there are costs of testing and vaccination sites still to come.
“It’s not a direction that I personally want to go,” she said.
Meanwhile, another proposal intended to boost vaccinations was removed from the agenda Tuesday.
Officials were expected, for the second time in two weeks, to discuss a plan requiring unvaccinated county employees to submit to weekly COVID-19 testing.
But the item was pulled because the issue is still under review, county spokesman Erik Pappa said.
Contact Shea Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.