GADSDEN, Ala. (WIAT) — As Alabama hospitals fill up, cities are racing to get neighbors vaccinated. In one east Alabama city, efforts seem to be paying off, literally.
Dozens of Gadsden neighbors received $100 payments for getting fully vaccinated as part of an incentive program that was announced last month. Under “Vaccinate Gadsden,” residents who live in city limits are eligible for the money if they prove they were fully vaccinated after the initiative was launched July 19.
So far, about 600 vouchers have been requested, which means those people have received at least one of the mRNA vaccine doses or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to Etowah County Emergency Management director Deborah Gaither.
Gaither said the situation has become dire in Etowah County, much like other areas across the state. Both area hospitals are diverting patients because facilities are so full.
“We do not have any critical care beds at this time in Etowah County and it is not just our hospitals. Our paramedics are tired and wary too getting multiple calls per day,” Gaither said.
This time last month, the vaccination rate for Etowah County was between 32 and 33%. Now, that rate has gone up about 5%.
Gaither hopes the “Vaccinate Gadsden” program will increase the vaccination rate.
Neighbors who received the incentive payments said that the incentive was only part of the motivation.
Shaun Huff and his father both received the payments.
“My mother has like multiple sclerosis so she has a weak immune system so she got vaccinated about like two months ago but it took him a little bit longer to get vaccinated because he was iffy about it, but once the delta variant came along that is kind of why he got vaccinated because it’s gotten a little bit worse over the past few months,” Huff said.
Some participants told CBS 42 they got the vaccine because of requirements from an employer. Others were concerned about travel.
“I was going out of town and I just did not want to go unvaccinated because I knew about the people in my town, but I was going out of town and I did not know how they were so I went on and got vaccinated and the $100 just came with it, I was glad of that,” said Veronia Westbrooks, a resident who received the vaccine through the program.
According to a city of Gadsden spokesperson, between 55 and 60 people received payments Wednesday on the first day the money was offered.
Moving forward, residents can collect the cash on Wednesdays and Fridays on the second floor of Gadsden City Hall between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Individuals must bring proof of residency, vaccine records, and a completed voucher that can be obtained from participating pharmacies.
Residents have until Oct. 15. People who were vaccinated before the launch of the program are not eligible for the payments.