When City of Dubuque officials contemplated (briefly) in January offering $100 incentives to 750 city employees to encourage them to get vaccinated, the TH Editorial Board and many residents quickly cried foul.
In January, many people were clamoring to get a vaccine and didn’t need any enticement. And spending up to $75,000 of taxpayer money to convince the willing didn’t sound like a good use of taxpayer money.
That was then.
Today, the view on vaccinations looks a little bit different. More than 60% of Dubuque County residents age 12 and older are vaccinated. That’s a solid number, but it’s not enough. Virtually every adult has had an opportunity to get the vaccine by now. The number of people getting shots has slowed dramatically.
The county’s incident management team said this past week that it might let the county’s lease of the former Younkers women’s store at Kennedy Mall expire at the end of the month. The site has served as the county’s COVID-19 vaccine point of distribution since early February, and the pace of walk-ins has dwindled.
Those indicators led Dubuque County supervisors to contemplate whether offering incentives to encourage county residents to get vaccinated might be a good use of the federal relief aid allocated to the county. It’s an idea worth considering.
County Health Department Executive Director Patrice Lambert likes the idea and said the incident management team will develop and present a plan to the county supervisors soon. Supervisors indicated some interest as well.
If incentives might move the needle, so to speak, it’s worth pursuing.
Getting to a higher rate of fully vaccinated citizens and moving toward herd immunity would benefit public health for the county as a whole — which is the chief concern for county officials.
Federal relief money is intended to help government entities recover from the storm of COVID-19. If some of that aid goes toward preventing a relapse among the 40% of the county that isn’t vaccinated, that would be money well spent.
It’s difficult to know whether a financial incentive will entice folks who have thus far refused to get the vaccine to roll up their sleeves.
The good news is that if it doesn’t, little funding will be expended and then the county can move on to other uses for the money. But if it helps increase the numbers markedly, that’s valuable.
As the county, state and nation emerge from the pandemic, most citizens have a new recognition of the importance of public health and having a majority of citizens vaccinated. Getting to that, one way or another, would be a significant milestone.