BISBEE — If you have been putting off getting vaccinated thinking the county might provide some incentive program as has been done in other counties, it is not going to happen.
Though the county pandemic team has discussed a plan that would use available federal funding to offer an incentive of a $25 gift card to be used at local small businesses and restaurants, Supervisors Ann English and Peggy Judd were against providing such incentives.
Public Health Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Craig Janiszewski explained in the bi-monthly COVID-19 work session Friday the team had talked about helping out small local businesses, not big box stores or chains, who were impacted by the shutdown and suffered losses. The idea was to help their economic recovery while offering people incentives to get vaccinated.
Just 45.5 percent of the county population has received full vaccinations, he said. In Arizona, only 38.6 percent are fully vaccinated. There continues to be a considerable decline in demand in the county which still puts some people at risk of contracting the virus.
While a big push was on from February to mid–May this year when thousands of doses were dispensed weekly, since then the number given has dropped to a few hundred and far less a week, according to a graph on the county COVID-19 website.
So, to encourage more people to get the shots, Cochise Health and Social Services Director Alicia Thompson said the idea was to help increase the vaccination rate as well as help small businesses get back on their feet. The county could purchase the $25 gift cards from hard hit local restaurants throughout the county.
But, the supervisors said they were not in favor of rewarding people “who came late to the game.”
English stated, “I’m totally against giving people something for doing what they should be doing for their own personal health and that of their families. And, it doesn’t say much for those people who stepped up and already got vaccinated. Why reward people for lagging behind?”
Judd agreed. “I see the incentives being given in other counties, but I think that as time goes by and people see the vaccines are safe, people will get vaccinated. I’m not sure the incentives would be effective,” she said.
With the Moderna and Janssen vaccines undergoing the final certification process of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, people may have more confidence in them than they did under the emergency approval which pushed the vaccines out quickly to the public, noted Thompson.
County Public Information Officer Camila Rochin did prepare a mailing to all known addresses in the county in May with information on making an appointment to receive the vaccination. Another mailing will sent next month.
Janiszewski said vaccinations were readily available all over the county through doctors’ offices, pharmacies, grocery stores, health clinics and the CHSS vaccination clinics, with some offering permanent hours for walk-ins. No registrations or appointments are necessary anymore.
He noted the county’s rate of positive cases has dropped considerably, with just 16 new people testing positive over the past seven days, he reported.
Of the most vulnerable in the county, age 65 and older, 71.8 percent are fully vaccinated, he reported. Of those 55 to 64, 57.9 have been vaccinated. Vaccinations drop from there. For those 35 to 44, 33.5 percent are vaccinated and 32 percent of those 15 to 34 are vaccinated.
Thompson said they expected a surge in positive cases after the Memorial Day weekend, but, thankfully, that did not happen and the cases continued to decline in the county.
Thompson said the University of Arizona was working with the U.S. Border Patrol to set up clinics so Mexican border residents can drive across to the U.S., get their shots and then return home with little inconvenience.
The county does offer vaccinations to Mexicans who come across the border for work to protect the border communities and the county from the spread of COVID–19, she noted.
With the positive cases and vaccination rate declining, the supervisors decided with the pandemic team to reduce the update work sessions to a monthly schedule unless trouble arises.
Supervisor Tom Crosby was not present at the work session.