Vaccine reward program in the works in St. Petersburg

From free beer to full scholarships to lotteries worth millions, states, counties, and cities across the country are coming up with creative ways to encourage people to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

A shot incentive program is now in the works in St. Petersburg.

The latest numbers from the Department of Health show 459,233 people in Pinellas County have received at least one coronavirus shot. That is nearly 53% of the eligible population.

One St. Pete leader says it is now critical to convincing the hold-outs to roll up their sleeves.

"We want to incentivize the younger generation and those who haven’t been vaccinated yet to get a vaccination," said City Councilman Robert Blackmon.

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He brought up the idea at Thursday’s city council meeting, proposing a partnership with the chamber of commerce as a creative way to reward folks for getting a COVID shot.  Blackmon says it would cost between $10,000 and $20,000 while helping local businesses at the same time.

"They have an initiative that they were talking about bringing forward anyway on a separate path to have universal gift cards for the entire city, so I’m hoping to give money to them to partner with the  Chamber so that we can have a one-size-fits-all gift card that can be used at any business," explained Blackmon.

The city is also working to develop rewards to help boost local vaccination rates. Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin speaking up at the City Council meeting.

"We are on the same page, and actually thinking of the same thing, and have very much a plan and process to establish an incentive for vaccines, it centers around free parking, is what we are looking at now," Tomalin said.

Leaders want to get things rolling quickly, and will likely be working together to come up with a program.

The promotion will not sway people completely against the vaccine but could help convince folks on the fence.

"If we even get one more person vaccinated it’s worth the time, and if we get one more person through the doors of a local business it’s certainly, I think that business owner would think, it’s worth the time too," said Blackmon.