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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Vaccination gift card programs return to Alachua County and include boosters

County commissioners approved the reinstitution of two vaccination incentive programs amid COVID-19 surge

Alachua County residents and county workers can once again get paid for COVID-19 vaccinations, and this time boosters will be included too.

County commissioners unanimously reinstated two vaccination incentive programs Tuesday.

One program gives any Alachua County resident $25 gift cards for each COVID-19 vaccination and booster they receive. Another awards $100 gift cards to each county government employee for their initial vaccination and booster.

When the citizen vaccination program was first established in August, it led to 16,000 vaccinations and cost $400,000. 

The county anticipates a similar cost for the reinstated program, predicting an 80% citizen vaccination rate that will cost anywhere from $400,000 to $800,000.

The American Rescue Plan (ARPA) will fund the giftcards once more. 

Vaccine providers using Alachua-provided gift cards will give out the 5,000 leftover cards from the last program.

Residents and city workers can receive their cards at locations not using the county provided gift cards until Feb. 28. Most major pharmacies will be providing their own cards.

However, gift cards are available at the following vaccine providers: The Florida Department of Health in Alachua County, Hitchcock's Pharmacies, West End Pharmacy, Wise's Pharmacy, Winn Dixie Pharmacies, CVS Pharmacies, and Able Pharmacy.

CVS located in Target stores and CVS MinuteClinics will not be participating. 

The plan initially gave employees a $250 gift card for their booster shot, but District 4 County Commissioner Ken Cornell motioned to decrease the booster gift cards to $100 instead.

The programs’ reintroduction comes about a week before UF models’ predicted COVID-19 peak. 

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During the meeting on Tuesday, Alachua County Health Department administrator Paul Myers presented the county’s current COVID statistics. 

“Our positivity rate is setting a record. We have not seen positivity rates above 27% since the beginning of this pandemic,” Myers said. “We’re seeing that in our schools. We’re seeing that at the Health Department. We’re seeing that community wide.”

The rising COVID-19 case numbers have impacted every community in Alachua County including its colleges, jails, businesses, and public schools

The county achieved a 70% vaccination rate in November. However, with the expansion of vaccinations to children ages 5 to 12 in mid-November, the percentage was reduced to 65%, according to a report by the Alachua County Recovery Plan.

Today, 68% of eligible county residents and 81% of eligible county employees are vaccinated.  

Commissioners hope to reach their goal of 80% of eligible citizens vaccinated and 90% of eligible employees vaccinated by the end date of both programs, which run from Jan. 12 to Feb. 28.

Myers warned the board of false negatives produced by BinaxNOW home test kits, especially in asymptomatic carriers, and recommended that those who are symptomatic and test negative follow up with a PCR test.

According to the FDA, the BinaxNOW home test kits are limited in their ability to detect COVID-19 due to possible errors that may occur while collecting the sample. 

Contact Melanie Pena at @mpena@alligator.org or follow her on Twitter @MelanieBombino_ .

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Melanie Pena

Melanie Peña is a freshman majoring in Business (hoping to specialize in pre-law) and journalism. This semester she is the City and County Commission reporter. When she's not writing an article, she's probably designing a graphic or exploring coffee shops in Gainesville.


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