This past weekend, Multnomah County began offering $100 to people who received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as $50 for a second dose. For a the single dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the county will provide $150.
That incentive appears to be among the first occasions when an Oregon government has given a cash bonus to people who get vaccinated. (The Oregon Lottery last week announced a winner of the $1 million draw for the vaccinated. But this time everyone gets a small prize.) It also comes after the Oregon Health Authority offered $100 grocery cards beginning last month at the Oregon Convention Center mass vaccination site and at local sites for weeks, organizers of clinics said.
At two vaccine clinics in East Portland, which organizers said vaccinated more than 50 people apiece this weekend, people coming in to the site didn’t always know they’d receive the free gift card—so their decision to get vaccinated wasn’t always tied to the money. But the gift card is intended to get its recipients to mention the vaccine clinic to neighbors, organizers and volunteers said. It also covered costs for people who had to take time off work or hire babysitters to come to the clinic.
At a county vaccination clinic, Fabric Depot, on Southeast 122nd Avenue, on Saturday, July 10, the check cards were not yet available but being mailed to those who got vaccinated this weekend, county officials said.
“There are many reasons that people who are eligible have not yet been vaccinated,” says county spokesperson Kate Yeiser. “For some, those reasons include financial barriers. We want to remove as many barriers as we can. That’s why last week the county launched a gift-card program for people who come to get vaccines at a public health clinic.”
“These gift cards are one way to help offset financial barriers such as having to find or pay for childcare, transportation to a vaccine clinic, and losing income from taking time off work to get the vaccine, recover from side effects, or both,” says Yeiser.
There were also be $50 gift cards for people who bring someone else to get vaccinated, so long as they are already vaccinated themselves. The county will also provide “for a limited time” $150 gift cards for anyone getting a second dose and for whom the cash incentive was not available, officials say.
Kids as young as 12 (the lowest age for which the vaccine is approved) are eligible, as are people who are incarcerated.
The next scheduled county vaccine clinics—where the $100 incentive is likely to be offered—are Tuesday at the Arbor Lodge shelter on North Denver Avenue in Portland (which is scheduled to have the Moderna vaccine for people 18 and older) and at the Fabric Depot clinic (which is scheduled to have the Pfizer vaccine for people age 12 and older).
In Multnomah County, more than 63% of all residents have had at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, but there is a dramatic disparity between neighborhoods. In the Kerns and Laurelhurst ZIP code, 86.5% of all residents have had a dose, while no ZIP code east of 82nd Avenue has hit 70%.
And the rate of vaccinations is plummeting even as tens of thousands still need doses. On April 29, 12,903 residents of the county got a dose, the record high day for vaccinations in the county. By July 3, the seven-day running average of daily doses had fallen to 1,050.
Note: This post has updated with comments and details from Multnomah County.