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Saturday, May 28, 2022

Want an extra $50? Get vaccinated in Alachua County

Visa gift cards are being offered in an attempt to increase vaccination rates across the county throughout September

Alachua County commissioners are trying a new tactic to bolster vaccination rates. After a unanimous vote Aug. 24, everyone who receives two vaccinations in September will now be $50 richer. 

As of this week, 66% of the county age 12 and older is fully vaccinated. Although this is one of the highest county vaccination rates in the state, County Manager Michele Lieberman wants to see about 45,000 more people of the Alachua population vaccinated. 

To achieve that goal, any resident of Alachua County, even transient students without a permanent county address, are eligible for payments, county spokesperson Mark Sexton said. 

“We don’t view citizens as transient,” Sexton said. “They live in Alachua County, then they are residents of Alachua County.” 

The Alachua County Commission finalized its decision on the execution of payments Aug. 24: anyone who gets vaccinated in the county starting Sept. 1 will receive $25 Visa gift cards for every shot they receive, including booster shots and regardless of the manufacturer. 

Those already vaccinated in the county are not eligible for payments. Sexton said it would boost too much if the county was to backlog all residents who have received their shots. 

All county employees already fully vaccinated will receive $500, and unvaccinated county employees will be eligible to receive $250 in gift cards per shot or get $500 for the Johnson & Johnson shot, Lieberman said. They will also receive a $10 reduction in their insurance premium for every family member vaccinated each month, she said. A vaccinated family of five will get a $50 monthly reduction in insurance costs. 

The commission unanimously agreed to make the gift amount larger for the county employees, Sexton said. Lieberman hopes this plan further prevents employees from falling ill. 

If every county employee became fully vaccinated and was given the payments, it would cost just over $1 million, Lieberman said. 

“One person in the ICU with COVID-19 would have a medical bill of half a million dollars or more,” Lieberman said. “Two unvaccinated people in the ICU is the cost of incentivizing every county employee to be vaccinated.” 

Lieberman said the incentives are only available in September to deter people from putting it off. She said the next 30 days are crucial because depending on how high vaccination rates increase from the plan, the commission will have to reconvene to discuss extending the payments another month or ending the program. 

Saretha Smokae, a 62-year-old Gainesville resident, believes the incentive program will change people’s minds.

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“I think more people will go with it now instead of remaining without the vaccine,” Smokae said. 

The money used for the incentive plan comes from American Rescue Plan funds, Lieberman said. Ameris Bank, located in Gainesville at 3631 N. Main St., partnered with the board and will be selling the gift cards to the county for $1 each. The $25 gift cards will be distributed at participating vendors throughout Gainesville. 

The county is still making an effort to include college students in this initiative. The commissioners discussed having payments available on UF and Santa Fe College campuses to make them more accessible for students to receive a shot while walking to class or if a student does not have a means of transportation. 

There is no proof of residence required to get the gift cards, making students with no permanent county address eligible for the gift cards, Sexton said. 

“We must do what is necessary to keep our community and our employees safe,” Sexton said. 

The 20 locations include two Winn Dixie stores, 13 CVS Pharmacies, two Hitchcock’s Pharmacies, West End Pharmacy and the Department of Health. A smaller local vendor participating is Wises Pharmacy, located in Gainesville at 708 SW Fourth Ave.

Name

Address

The Florida Department of Health in Alachua County

224 SE 24th St., Gainesville, FL 32641

Hitchcock's Pharmacies

15560 NW U.S. Highway 441, Alachua, FL 32615

24220 W. Newberry Road, Newberry, FL 32669

West End Pharmacy

25340 W. Newberry Road, Newberry, FL 32669

Wise’s Pharmacy

708 SW Fourth Ave., Gainesville, FL 32601

Winn Dixie Pharmacies

20303 N., U.S.Highway 441, High Springs, FL 32643

300 SW 16th Ave., Gainesville, FL 32601

CVS Pharmacies ‐ Beginning September 3

901 N. Main St., Gainesville, FL 32601

7430 SW Archer Road, Gainesville, FL 32608

6025 U.S. Highway 301, Hawthorne, FL 32640

4354 NW 23rd Ave., Gainesville, FL 32606

4145 NW 53rd Ave., Gainesville, FL 32653

3904 NW 13th St., Gainesville, FL 32609

3404 SW Archer Road, Gainesville, FL 32608

2303 SW 75th St., Gainesville, FL 32607

19225 NW U.S. Highway 441, High Springs, FL 32643

1621 SW 13th St., Gainesville, FL 32608

15174 NW U.S. Highway 441, Alachua, FL 32615

1515 NW 13th St., Gainesville, FL 32601

14355 W. Newberry Road, Gainesville, Fl 32669

Contact Troy Myers at @tmyers@alligator.org or follow him on Twitter @Troy_Myers1.

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Troy Myers

Troy is the criminal justice reporter and a fourth-year journalism major with an outside focus in business administration. He previously studied accounting for two years at Santa Fe College but has since transferred to UFCJC. When Troy isn’t writing, he enjoys going to the beach and spending time with his dog, identical twin brother and family.


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