YMCA, New Sarum Brewing will host vaccination sites offering cash cards

Published 12:05 am Thursday, June 3, 2021

SALISBURY — In an effort to entice unvaccinated people to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Rowan County is offering $25 Summer Cash Cards and is hosting a clinic that will allow people to enjoy a cold beer with their shot.

The county is offering the gift card at Novant Health ‘s JF Hurley YMCA clinic, which is typically open Tuesday-Friday, today and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It’s located at 828 Jake Alexander Blvd. Walk-ins are welcome. An appointment can be made by calling 1-855-648-2248 or going to care.novanthealth.org/vaccine/

On Saturday, people will have another opportunity to earn $25 and get a shot while hanging out at New Sarum Brewing. The downtown brewery, located at 109 N. Lee St., will host a Health Department vaccine clinic from 12-5 p.m.

Rowan was one of four counties, along with Mecklenburg, Rockingham and Guilford, selected to participate in the pilot incentive program, which is an attempt by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to reach those who have still not been vaccinated. Data published by the NCDHHS shows 4.5 million North Carolina residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 4.08 million, or 38.9% of the state’s population, have been fully vaccinated.

The $25 cash cards, Rowan County Health Director Alyssa Harris said, are intended to offset any time or monetary investment people must make to get their first shot. There is no cost charged to patients by vaccinators.

“This is one opportunity to see if this is an effective way to really recognize the time and energy it takes to get people vaccinated and provide some sort of return on investment for folks,” Harris said.

Anyone at least 18 years old who still needs to get their first COVID-19 vaccination is eligible for the card. Additionally, the person who transported them to the site can also earn $25 if they meet certain criteria. The driver cannot have been paid for the ride and must also provide the person vaccinated with a ride to the site and back home.

Surveys are being conducted at vaccine sites to gauge the effectiveness of the incentive. 

Although Harris said she isn’t sure why NCDHHS selected Rowan County to participate in the pilot cash card program, it could be due to Rowan’s lower vaccination rate compared to neighboring counties. 

“I think there’s been a steady decline (in vaccinations),” Harris said. “It’s pretty low in terms of who is going out to get vaccinated. We understand that it is so widely available, that maybe we’re not seeing the volume at any one site, but really when we’re looking week-to-week there hasn’t been a large increase in the number of people who have gotten vaccinated.”

According to NCDHHS data, 29.8% of Rowan County residents have received their first dose and 26.9% have been fully vaccinated. However, those numbers do not include people who have been vaccinated through the Salisbury VA, which would increase those totals to 33.4% who have received their first dose and 30.5% who have received their second shot.

By hosting the vaccination event at New Sarum Brewing, Harris said the Health Department is hoping to reach members of the 18-24 and 25-49 age demographics, which have been lagging behind older adults in their vaccination rate.

“You have to take vaccines where people are,” Harris said. “Especially when you think about that demographic that isn’t being reached or isn’t going to get vaccines, we’ve looked at what counties surrounding us are doing. Mecklenburg and Cabarrus have both had really, really successful events by holding vaccine clinics at breweries.”

When Andy Maben, the co-owner and head brewer of New Sarum, was approached by the Health Department about the idea, he was quick to pledge the brewery’s support.

“I’m glad we were asked to do it,” Maben said. “I’m super stoked about it because it shows how much we’re doing for the city. We try to make sure everybody is taken care of and make sure Salisbury is on the map and doing this is an extension of that.”

The vaccine clinic will be held outside on the brewery’s patio, where food trucks typically set up shop.

While there won’t be any live music during the clinic, beer lovers can enjoy one of New Sarum’s craft creations, including “Beer AF.” The seasonal beer, a triple-hopped American lager, will be released on Friday to celebrate Pride Month. 

“After you get your vaccination and waited your 15 minutes, man come on in for a beer,” Maben said. 

Once the vaccine clinic is over, Maben said there will be a food truck and live music for patrons to enjoy.

Harris said the Health Department is currently planning to open other vaccine sites offering the $25 cash card across the county, including some at churches. The program could return to the JF Hurley YMCA site next week as well. The pilot program will run through June 8.

More information about the Summer Cash Card program can be found online at rowancountync.gov/COVIDvaccine or by calling Rowan County Public Health at 980-432-1800, and selecting option No. 1.

Although Harris said the county’s vaccination rate is lower than she’d like, the county is trending in the right direction in other COVID-19 metrics. Harris said the county currently has 149 active cases, compared to over 400 active cases at the start of May. The county’s current positive test rate of 4.6%, however, is higher than the state’s 14-day rate (last reported on March 31) of 3.5%.

“Just in the last month it’s dropped,” Harris said. “We’re at the lowest we’ve been since probably June of last year, so it’s really low and looking really good.”

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About Ben Stansell

Ben Stansell covers business, county government and more for the Salisbury Post. He joined the staff in August 2020 after graduating from the University of Alabama. Email him at ben.stansell@salisburypost.com.

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