PHILADELPHIA — City Council today introduced two bills that would offer incentives to Philadelphia residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19, at a time when the pace of vaccinations citywide and nationally has slowed.
As of May 24, 35.4 percent of city residents over the age of 10 have been fully vaccinated, or 670,344 people. Meanwhile, 46.7 percent of residents have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, or 880,057 people. President Biden has set a national goal of having 70 percent of adults vaccinated with at least one vaccine dose by July 4, 2021.
The bills were introduced in Council today by Councilmember Cindy Bass (8th District), who chairs Council’s Public Health & Human Services Committee, at Council President Darrell Clarke’s request. The bills would offer the following vaccination incentives:
- Under one bill, city residents who get vaccinated would receive a voucher worth $50.00 redeemable as credit with the Philadelphia Gas Works or Water Department against their gas or water bills.
- Under another bill, residents who get vaccinated would receive a $50.00 gift certificate redeemable “in a manner to be determined by the City.”
Both bills require the Department of Public Health to set up a COVID-19 Vaccination Rebate Voucher Program to administer the incentive rebates. In each case, the program would include a form by which residents would verify their city residency and COVID-19 vaccination. No person could receive more than one voucher or gift certificate. The total number of vouchers or certificates issued would be capped at 100,000, meaning the programs would cost a maximum of $5 million. Council is working with the Kenney administration on the legislation.
“We need to act creatively and aggressively to get more Philadelphians vaccinated,” said Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District). “The simple reality is that a little less than 50 percent of Philadelphians have gotten at least one vaccine shot. That’s not enough, if we want to get our residents back to work and our schools re-opened safely, and fully open up restaurants and other workplaces where people can feel safe around each other again.”
Clarke noted the array of incentives which other municipalities, state governments and businesses around the country are offering residents to get vaccinated, such as:
- State-sponsored lotteries. Ohio is offering a $1 million lottery prize for adults and college scholarships for youths to get vaccinated. Other states, including Delaware, Colorado, Maryland, New York and Oregon, are following Ohio and creating vaccine-incentive lotteries.
- Employee cash bonuses. Amazon has set up at-work vaccination clinics and offered employees who show proof of vaccination an $80 bonus; new hires get $100 if they’re vaccinated. Grocer Albertsons pays $100 to employees who get the vaccine, and Wawa is offering $75 to employees to get vaccinated.
Even as Philadelphia seeks different ways to induce residents to get vaccinated, public health data reveals a disparity in the percentage of Black and brown residents getting the vaccine compared with the city’s white population. As of May 20, 48.5 percent of all vaccine doses in the city have gone to white residents, while 24.5 percent have gone to Black residents, and 8.9 percent to Hispanic residents. Asian residents have gotten 11.7 percent of the vaccinations.
Philadelphia’s population overall is 42 percent Black, 34 percent white, 14 percent Hispanic and 7 percent Asian, according to U.S. Census data.
Councilmember Bass believes incentives can send an important message of urgency. “Vaccination incentives can encourage people who have been procrastinating. We say to them and anyone else that now is the time, this City is the place and the vaccine is available. We can get this done,” Bass said.
“We need to work creatively to get more people vaccinated,” said Council President Clarke. “The disparity in vaccination rates shows again how the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted our Black and brown population. We need to work together – City Council, the Mayor’s Office, the business community – to get more Philadelphians vaccinated. It’s an all-hands-on-deck moment.”
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Photo: Jared Piper/PHLCouncil