DC still weighing additional incentives to get residents vaccinated as demand plateaus

The District is seeing some success with their vaccination incentive programs, but are still looking for ways to get people out to vaccine sites around the city to be vaccinated.

Patrick Ashley, with DC Health, told the D.C. Council Friday that, based on conversations with people turning out to get the District’s $51 gift cards for getting vaccinated, recent vaccine incentives have been effective.

“We do see great rewards, a great draw from that,” Ashley said. “All the giveaways in general have generated a lot of conversations in general, which is what we’re hoping to have.”

Ashley said demand for vaccines had plateaued in early July, after June saw a small decline.

Ward 4 Council member Christina Henderson asked whether any consideration had gone into instituting a scholarship incentive — a program Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan unveiled for the state earlier this week — that could bring in more kids ages 12 to 17 to get vaccinated.

“I certainly appreciate the idea of a scholarship — it’s something that I can tell you we’ve had some conversations about and something I’ve advocated for,” Ashley said. “We haven’t made any final decisions about what that looks like, but we certainly welcome any ideas from the council about what ideas might work and might draw individuals out.”

Ashley said the District is still weighing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated guidance that vaccinated teachers and students did not need to wear masks in schools buildings, and will likely issue its guidance in the matter in the coming week.

The relaxation of the COVID-19 guidelines comes as more children ages 12 to 17 are getting vaccinated and a drop in general hospitalizations from the virus across the country.

Still, the CDC is not recommending that vaccines be mandated for students and teachers and, for now, neither is D.C.

Chris Rodriguez, director of the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, said the District reserves the right to mandate its employees to get vaccinated, but there are no immediate plans to do so.

While the delta variant has taken a strong foothold nationally, it only accounts for 1% of reported cases in D.C., with the alpha variant still the dominant strain in the District.

At-Large Council member Robert White Jr. said he had recently talked with a constituent who tried to find a site administering the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but that the website she used directed her to a vaccine site that did not offer that particular vaccine.

Ashley said DC Health was aware of an issue with a website run by Safeway that had not been updated to reflect the fact that they had run out of doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. He said the site should be updated by next week.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Zeke Hartner

Zeke Hartner is a digital writer/editor who has been with WTOP since 2017. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s Political Science program and an avid news junkie.

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