ALBEMARLE — For the rest of August, a first dose appointment for the free COVID-19 vaccine at the Stanly County Health Department will come with a $100 Summer Card.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that anyone age 18 or older will receive a prepaid Mastercard after receiving their first shot of the Pfizer vaccine at a participating county health department during the promotional period.
“Some people have their minds made up that the vaccine is not for them — you respect that because that is their belief. But for some people that might be on the fence, maybe $100 is something that might incentivize someone to want to come and get vaccinated,” David Jenkins, director of the Stanly County Health Department, told SCJ on Aug. 6. “We have seen an uptick in vaccinations since we rolled that program out.”
The Summer Card program previously came with a $25 incentive; that amount will now be given to anyone who drives someone to a first dose appointment. According to NCDHHS guidelines, there is not a limit on the number of times someone can transport people to a vaccination, but a driver will only receive one card per visit.
Jenkins confirmed that some county health departments in the state have experienced a shortage of Summer Cards but that Stanly’s clinic is not one of them.
“We have more cards coming on the way and a pretty good supply on hand, so right now we’re in good shape,” Jenkins said. “If anybody comes in between now and Aug. 31, we’ll be able to provide a $100 card. If we run out of them, we’ve been given access by the state to order additional cards if needed.”
Appointments at the health department can be scheduled by calling the 980-323-0205 hotline or by visiting http://book.novelhealth.ai/stanly. While Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are the primary days the clinic uses for vaccinations, accommodations can be made for Thursdays and Fridays.
Based on the latest data released by the department on Aug. 6, the current vaccination rate for the county is at 35% for first dose appointments and 33% for full vaccinations, while the overall full vaccination rate for North Carolina is at 44 percent.
Jenkins wants Stanly County’s vaccination numbers to rise before the full effect of the Delta variant of the coronavirus hits the area. He mentioned that the variant has already led to high hospitalization rates in Texas, Florida, Louisiana and Arkansas, and that the trend could continue to spread throughout the country.
“We’re starting to see a huge increase in cases during this acceleration phase of Delta,” Jenkins said. “We’re trying to get out in front of that now by getting individuals vaccinated. We’re very concerned with the low vaccination rates, the lack of social distancing and masking in the county. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture for us especially with what we’ve seen across the U.S. in very similar instances.”
As of the health department’s latest COVID-19 numbers, Stanly County has reached a total of 8,147 total cases and 147 deaths during the pandemic; there were 206 new cases for last week and 15 active hospitalizations recorded on Aug. 6.