With demand for COVID-19 vaccines dipping in West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice has proposed a radical new plan to boost vaccinations — pay people to get the shot.
At a press conference on Monday, Justice, a Republican, said the state will offer a $100 savings bond to any West Virginian between the ages of 16 and 35 who agrees to get the shot.
“Our kids today probably don’t really realize just how important they are in shutting this thing down,” Justice said. “I’m trying to come up with a way that’s truly going to motivate them — and us — to get over the hump.”
West Virginia’s vaccination effort got off to a roaring start earlier this year. The state quickly vaccinated a huge percentage of residents older than 65, and at one point was among the leaders in all states in percentage of residents vaccinated.
But as the rollout continued, the demand for vaccines in the state tapered off. According to Bloomberg, about 32% of the state’s population is now fully vaccinated, lagging behind the national average of 36%.
Justice says a big reason for the lagging demand is that younger people have not sought out vaccination.
“They’re not taking vaccines as fast as we’d like them to take them,” Justice said. “If we really want to move the needle, we’ve got to get our younger people vaccinated.”
Justice said Monday that he hopes the savings bonds will encourage 80% of 16- to 35-year-olds in the state to get a vaccination. He says if that happens, the state will reach its goal of 70% vaccinations.
“If we can get to 70%, we’ll shut this virus down,” Justice said. “If we do that, the masks go away, the hospitalizations go away, and the deaths become minimal.”
Justice also said Monday that any 16- to 35-year-old in the state who had already received a vaccination will retroactively be eligible for the $100 bond. He added that the bonds will be paid for with funds provided through the CARES Act, a stimulus package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump in 2020.
“We have vetted this in every way that we possibly can to be assured that we can use our CARES dollars to do exactly just this,” Justice said.