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Hamilton Co. Offers $100 Vaccine Incentive As Hospitalizations Steeply Increase

vaccine shot by doctor in mask
Mat Napo

The Hamilton County Public Health Department says it pays to get vaccinated – literally. $100 Visa gift cards are available to anyone now getting their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The cards are available at county-operated mobile clinics that rotate throughout the state, and at the county's disease prevention clinic at 184 E. McMillan.

County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman says the program is funded by the Ohio Health Department.

"We have about $650,000 dedicated to incentives out of one of our grant budgets," Kesterman said. "The state is encouraging us to use them and actually might have additional funds after those dollars are gone."

Although Visa charges a fee for each card purchased, the funding is enough to give away more than 6,000 gift cards. County commissioners will consider a separate incentive program for county employees on Thursday.

About 54% of the Hamilton County population has gotten at least one dose. That's about 62% of everyone over age 12, who are eligible to be vaccinated.

Kesterman says new COVID cases are still on the rise, and he's especially concerned about a big increase in hospitalizations.

"When talking with folks in leadership in our hospital systems, the thing that's most concerning is the steepness of that curve," he said. "Each day, 10, 15 new people are admitted into the hospital systems. So it's definitely adding stress to the system; there's still capacity but it's increasing significantly."

All three vaccines used in the U.S. have been shown to prevent serious symptoms and death. Fully vaccinated Ohioans make up only 2% of COVID hospitalizations and about 1% of deaths.

Kesterman says he hopes people who have been hesitant will consider getting the Pfizer vaccine, which just got full approval from the FDA this week.

"We know this was at least one reason people said that they were hesitating to get vaccinated, so I'm extremely excited," he said. "We know with the FDA approval that they have the data to support this vaccine. We know that they have the data to support the effectiveness and the manufacturing."

Hamilton County - and the entire Tri-State - have high spread of COVID-19 according to the CDC. Nearly the entire country is in that highest category of transmission.

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.