When coronavirus vaccines were first approved, many people in the United States felt a sense of relief, like the pandemic was coming to an end. However, a vaccine is only useful if people actually bother to take it, and rates in the U.S. unfortunately aren't that great. But if avoiding the coronavirus wasn't enough of a reason, maybe money is a better motivator. Now, getting vaccinated can make you $100 richer if you live in West Virginia.
In the United States, the seven-day average for coronavirus cases dropped below 60,000 for the first time since March 25. While any decline should be celebrated, the U.S. isn't out of the woods yet, especially as vaccine rates have started to slow down. CNBC reported that, per data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average number of vaccine doses administered each day fell to 2.7 million on Monday, the lowest level since late March.
So, that's where West Virginia Republican Gov. Jim Justice comes in. On Monday, Justice announced that West Virginia residents between the ages of 16 and 35 will receive a $100 savings bond if they get the coronavirus vaccine. These bonds are retroactive, so if you were vaccinated before the announcement, you're still eligible to receive a savings bond.
"Our kids today probably don't really realize just how important they are in shutting this thing down," Justice said during Monday's briefing. "I'm trying to come up with a way that’s truly going to motivate them — and us — to get over the hump."
In addition to offering savings bonds, it seems West Virginia is also making the vaccine process easier by bringing the doses to where people will already be. The same day Justice announced the savings bond initiative, he shared that the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department will administer vaccines to anyone over the age of 16 attending the state basketball tournament.
“Anyone can be vaccinated at the tournament, but if you're 16 to 35 years old and you get your shot, we'll take your information and we’ll be mailing you your savings bond very promptly," Justice said.
At the start of the year, West Virginia led the nation when it came to coronavirus vaccinations. In January, CNN reported its rate was nearly double the national rate, with over 9% of the population receiving their first dose. But since then, demands for the vaccine have fallen. Of the 1.47 million residents who are eligible, 52% of West Virginians have received their first dose of the vaccine, and only 40% are fully vaccinated.
With the savings bond initiative, Justice hopes to get over 70% of the state's eligible population vaccinated. That's possible if the state can get 80% of residents ages 16 and 35 to get their shots. To fund this initiative, Justice is using stimulus money from the May 2020 CARES Act, which states need to spend by the end of the year.
"If we can get to 70%, we’ll shut this virus down," Justice said. "If we do that, the masks go away, the hospitalizations go away, and the deaths become minimal."