Is Cameron County’s $50 vaccine incentive program working?

Local News

CAMERON COUNTY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Three weeks ago, Cameron County launched an incentive program giving $50 gift cards to any teen 12 to 18 who got a COVID vaccine between August 10 and Sept. 30.

According to Census data, Cameron County has around 30,000 teens that fall in the age range that would be eligible for the incentive.

Esmeralda Guajardo, the Cameron County health administrator, said that “at least 352 individuals have taken advantage of this and received their vaccine after August 10.”

Teens aged 12 to 15 have been able to receive the Pfizer vaccine since May, and at the start of August around 25% of teens in Texas had been fully vaccinated. Some teens had already gotten the first dose prior to the incentive program being approved.

The county wants that number to go higher, especially with more than school-related COVID-19 cases rising quickly in the past two weeks.

“We had 675 reports from August 16 to today,” said Guajardo.

A large number of cases in such a short time has helped drive more people to the program. Guajardo said that the number of vaccinations always increase at the start of school, even before COVID-19, and this was a part of the increase as well.

“I think it was one of those situations where parents took advantage of it being available and having to take their kids in for vaccines, so we did see an increase,” she said.

But not every student that has received a vaccine after August 10 has claimed their reward. 

Guajardo said some parents might think the cards are no longer available.

“Don’t let that be a factor for parents to say they’ll think we’ll probably run out. That’s not an issue, we’ll take care of it,” she said.

The program has only existed for three weeks, so it’s possible parents who did get their kids vaccinated since then didn’t know the program existed.

The incentive is being paid for with funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, and the county already has 3,000 gift cards ready to hand out. All the county needs are for people to go get them.

“The process is very simple. They just fill out one form, we do most of the work. We look it up, make sure it’s on ImmTrac then do the paperwork, give it — provide it — right back to them. It’s very simple, it’s a very easy $50.”

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