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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has no plans to offer $100 incentives to Iowans to get the COVID-19 vaccine after President Joe Biden pleaded with states and local governments to use federal funds to entice people to stop the rapid spread of a virus variant, an aide said Friday.
While many states and some Iowa counties have offered incentives for citizens to get a free vaccination, Iowa's governor continues to call for citizens to get vaccinated while repeating that ultimately it's their choice.
Measuring all the COVID-19 vaccinations administered in Iowa, the equivalent of 49.5 percent of the state’s population was fully immunized as of Thursday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That ranks Iowa as 21st in the nation. Since not all those doses went to Iowa residents, the percentage of the state’s population that is fully vaccinated is actually a little lower.
But like it has elsewhere, the pace of new vaccinations has fallen rapidly in Iowa since the spring, from a seven-day average of over 17,000 people becoming fully vaccinated in May to 1,402 in recent days.
Reynolds’ spokesman Pat Garrett said Friday the Republican governor has no plans to take up the offer the Democratic presidential administration made Thursday for states to spend $100 in federal funds for each newly vaccinated person.
In an email, Iowa Department of Public Health spokeswoman Sarah Ekstrand said the state's strategy is unchanged from its current "education and communications efforts."
Several states, including New Mexico, Ohio and Colorado, already have offered their own $100 incentive programs. Democratic Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz responded quickly to Biden's request, saying Thursday his state will offer the incentives. As of Friday, unvaccinated Minnesotans 12 and older who get their first shot by Aug. 15 will get a $100 Visa gift card to spend however they choose.
Absent statewide incentives in Iowa, officials in Polk and Black Hawk counties in recent weeks have created their own incentive programs.
Polk County created a lottery for newly vaccinated people and holds drawings for $1,000 prizes every Friday through Aug. 22. Every other Friday, a $50,000 prize and a $5,000 scholarship will be handed out.
Supervisor Robert Brownell, one of two Republicans on the five-member board, said earlier this month the response to the incentives wasn't as robust as he had hoped.
"The success of this has been somewhat lukewarm," Brownell told the Des Moines Register. "For the people that won $50,000, it wasn't so lukewarm, it's pretty good, obviously, but from our perspective, the numbers aren't overwhelmingly great."
Polk County public health spokeswoman Nola Aigner Davis said Friday that anytime incentives or other programs get people vaccinated, it's a benefit to the community.
"We know that anytime someone gets vaccinated it helps move community immunity forward. Any amount of vaccine is good," she said.
Black Hawk County has an incentive program raffling off gift card baskets worth $500 to local businesses and chain stores, and Dubuque County officials said they are exploring an incentive program.
In a northwest Des Moines neighborhood, several businesses joined together to offer a Beaverdale Community Immunity Card that offers discounts or free items at 16 businesses in the neighborhood. Anyone getting a second dose of vaccine at one of three local pharmacy locations is eligible.