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Cash Incentives For COVID Vaccinations Ought To Move Ahead, Milwaukee Alderperson Says

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Milwaukee Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic listens during Thursday's meeting of the city's Public Safety and Health Committee.

Milwaukee's Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson said the COVID-19 vaccination rate is so low in some parts of the city that talks are underway on providing additional incentives to get a shot.

Johnson said about half of city residents age 16 and older are vaccinated. More than 80% of city seniors have gotten their shots.

But during a quarterly report Thursday to the Milwaukee Common Council's Public Safety and Health Committee, Johnson said the growing presence of the delta variant of the coronavirus means some Black and Latino neighborhoods that have much lower vaccination rates are at risk.

"I am concerned about the impact on our Black and brown neighborhoods because of the lower vaccination rates and knowing the virus has impacted more those communities than it has others. And that's for many reasons — access to care, underlying health conditions, the perpetuation of poverty. There are a lot of reasons why, and I am very nervous this is going to have a disproportionate impact on our neighborhoods," she said.

Milwaukee Vaccination Rates
Milwaukee Health Department
Milwaukee vaccination trends over time by race/ethnicity.

Johnson said people who get vaccinated outside the Fiserv Forum before next Tuesday's Milwaukee Bucks game will be entered into a raffle for game tickets. She said the city is talking about a cash incentive program.

Committee chairperson Marina Dimitrijevic said cash incentives like potential lottery winnings for getting vaccinated are working in other states. "We're talking about big bucks out there — millions of dollars. And they've seen the needle move — oh, that wasn't even a pun but it was actually a pretty good one — I would like to see us move out of the considering phase and actually implement it," she said.

READ: Guns, Trucks And Trips: West Virginia Expands Prizes For Vaccinated Residents

Dimitrijevic said the Common Council will be meeting next week to talk about $400 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds coming to the city.

"I feel like we have the money and the ability, and we see the trends with the delta, we've got to start rolling out some incentives. I think the Bucks tickets are great. But we have to look at gift cards, whatever it takes to protect our people, because in the long run that will be less expensive than hospitalizations or the loss of life," Dimitrijevic said.

In the meantime, Johnson said the city and partner groups have started going door to door offering vaccinations. She said as of Thursday morning that program had vaccinated 244 people.

Johnson said various mobile vaccination sites over the last few months have led to more than 10,000 people being immunized against COVID-19.

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