CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia aims to entice residents aged 16 to 35 to get a coronavirus shot with the promise of a $100 savings bond.
Republican Gov. Jim Justice said Monday the move was to “jump-start” immunizing the demographic that officials say are most likely to be currently spreading the virus. There are about 380,000 people in the age range.
Justice said he chose a savings bond, over simply cash, for its “patriotic” factor and because he wants young people “to really see and understand that they’ve done something that’s really meaningful.” A bond may take many years to mature to reach its full value. The state will use federal CARES Act money to cover the costs.
The new incentive was announced as the state tries to turn around its sluggish vaccination program. Officials are also considering proposals to make vaccine clinics more ubiquitous by holding events at schools, fairs and more businesses.
Justice has previously said the mask mandate could be lifted if 70% of eligible residents get vaccinated. Currently, 47.5% of residents aged 16 and over have received at least one dose, state data show.
“We need to move from our older population to our younger population,” Justice said. “The young people are the key right now.”
The total number of statewide positive cases last week dipped 12% to 1,702 cases compared to the week before. There were 260 people hospitalized from COVID-19 as of Friday, the latest state data available.
The number of COVID-19 related deaths statewide fell for the third straight week. There were 36 reported deaths for the week ending Sunday.
Dr. Ayne Amjad, the state health officer, said that 162 previously reported deaths were incorrectly linked to COVID-19. State data show 2,821 coronavirus deaths have been reported in total during the pandemic.