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One County In Oregon Shows Vaccine Incentives Are Working

One County In Oregon Shows Vaccine Incentives Are Working

As Oregon records its highest case counts and hospitalization numbers of the pandemic, the number of people getting shots in Multnomah County (where its most liberal city, Portland, is located) has increased substantially. Last week, state figures show that 1,700 county residents got vaccinated on August 24th. By the end of the week, the seven-day average number of vaccinations was up to 1,363 per day, about 40% higher than when the county began offering cash-card incentives to unvaccinated residents.

And federal money provided cash incentives that account for some of that increase.

ORLANDO, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES – 2021/08/23: People register to receive a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccination site in Orlando on the day the FDA gave its approval of the drug for persons under 16 years of age and older.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the first to be approved for COVID-19 and will be marketed as Comirnaty. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Prior to the incentives, the county’s average was 250 people a week getting vaccinated, and now that number has grown closer to 900 people a week. The county got $4.2 million in federal CARES Act money for vaccine parity and has given out $3.2 million so far in payouts of gift cards.

Multnomah County began handing out the incentives July 10: a $50 Visa cash card for a first shot of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, $100 for the second shot, $150 for the one-time Johnson & Johnson shot, and $50 for a vaccinated person who brings in somebody else for a shot. Programs such as this have proven successful in other states as well.


The latest state figures show 77.4% of Multnomah County residents over 18 are vaccinated. That’s shy of the state’s goal of 80% but better than the statewide average of 72.2%. And while some skeptics blame the numbers on repeat offenders abusing the new incentive programs by getting multiple shots, local health officials have not seen any evidence of “vaccine fraud” in connection with the program.

Resident information in the state’s Alert database keeps track of vaccination statuses. Applicants must attest to their vaccine status with two different staff before they get the shot, and if someone is bringing in a friend or family member to get vaccinated and wants to claim a gift card, they will need to show proof of their own full or part vaccination.

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