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Guilford, Forsyth among Triad counties giving vaccine incentives

As coronavirus vaccination rates drop in the Triad, local health departments are getting creative about how to encourage people to get the shot.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Free tickets, discounts and even gift cards--those are just some of the incentives COVID-19 vaccine providers are offering for people to get their shots.

Fans at Tuesday's Winston-Salem Dash game will get a discount ticket if they get their vaccine at a pop up clinic in the stadium.

The clinic is run by Forsyth County Department of Public Health and it's the county's second pop up event that offers rewards for getting the vaccine.

Public Health Director Joshua Swift said about six people were vaccinated at The Backyard Axe Throwing League (BATL). They got to throw an axe for free in exchange. Swift believes every dose given can make a difference.

"That’s a small number but to be honest, where we are now with the pandemic, those six people probably wouldn’t have gotten a vaccine," Swift said.

Four counties in the state will soon offer a $25 gift cards to people getting their first doses. Guilford and Rockingham Counties are two of the counties taking part in that pilot program offered by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS).

"Hopefully it will be enough that it helps us get over that hump to maybe 50 percent or 60 percent of being fully vaccinated," Rockingham County Public Health Director Trey Wright said.

Wright said anyone over the age of 18 will be eligible to get their first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine through the program. Rockingham County will host two clinics offering $25 gift cards on Saturday, June 5 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Those clinics will be held at Mill Avenue Recreation Center in Eden and McMichael High School in Mayodan. Those who bring someone to get vaccinated will also be eligible to receive a gift card.

"A gift card could be used for things people need," Wright said, "That’s exciting to see if this is something people want and if this is an incentive for them. Maybe they were on the fence, maybe they didn’t have a ride and this is an incentive for someone to get somebody there."

Wright said the health department is still waiting to receive a charter from NCDHHS for the program.

Guilford County is expected to announce more details about how it will handle the program at a weekly press briefing Wednesday.

The gift card program is part of the state's Let's Bring Summer Back initiative, which is aimed at increasing vaccinations across the state.

Wright and Swift, like other health officials, have seen vaccine demand plummet since April.

Wright said he has Johnson and Johnson one dose vaccines that will expire if not administered by the end of June.

"That’s still a tough thing to think about-- the time that I couldn’t keep some (doses) and now I’m worried about will I be able to get it out in time," Wright said.

Swift said Forsyth County is looking at coming up with more vaccine incentives in the future. The state's vaccine gift card pilot program begins Wednesday.

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