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Health officials say financial incentives helped vaccination rates; lottery drawing today

SALISBURY — On the eve of the first COVID-19 vaccination lottery drawing, local and state health officials said North Carolina’s financial incentives have boosted the number of people in Rowan receiving the shot.

State data on Tuesday showed 44,448 Rowan residents have received at least one dose of a vaccination. An additional 5,526 local veterans have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination from the Salisbury VA. Combined, the numbers mean about 35% of Rowan residents are vaccinated with at least one dose.

State data alone show an increase of about 1,222 vaccinations since June 9, the day before Gov. Roy Cooper announced the vaccine lottery, said Rowan Public Health Director Alyssa Harris. That’s an average of 611 shots per week as compared to about 400 vaccinations per week previously, Harris said. A pilot program in Rowan and three other counties also offered $25 cards to people receiving the shot and driving people to vaccination sites.

“We did see an increase with the cash card and are seeing an increase overall that is, in my opinion, due to the vaccine lottery,” she said.

First announced in late May, the $25 program distributed 1,700 cash cards across four counties to people receiving COVID-19 shots and more than 700 cards to drivers. Because of its success, state officials said, they expanded it Tuesday to 34 additional counties — one of which is neighboring Stanly County.

“Some people need help covering the cost of taking time away from work and for transportation, and the Summer Cards are one way to help,” Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said. “What’s really exciting is that we saw some people who received their first dose at a Summer Card event then drove others to help them get their vaccine.”

Dr. Deepak Kumar of North Carolina Central University’s Advanced Center for COVID-19 Related Disparities said the results “show that the program is helping to reach the most vulnerable of our communities.”

The vaccination lottery, which will have its first drawing today, offers four prizes of $1 million and four $125,000 scholarships for people aged 12-17. Those vaccinated before and after the Cooper’s announcement on June 10 are automatically entered into the lottery.

State officials say numbers will be randomly drawn at the North Carolina Education Lottery’s office in Raleigh at 10 a.m today. Numbers correspond with vaccinated individuals.

Identities of the winners won’t be known for days, a news release said. Workers will verify the people chosen don’t meet any exclusions and agree to make their identity public. Odds of winning depend on the total number of people who are eligible and vaccinated at the time of the drawing. State data on Tuesday showed 4.36 million people in North Carolina vaccinated with at least one dose.

After today, the next vaccination lottery and scholarship drawing is scheduled July 7.

In general, the numbers of vaccinations administered across the state are far below where they were at the peak — hundreds of thousands of first and second doses per week in March and early April. Numbers have fluctuated between 114,000 and 162,000 total vaccinations since late May.

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