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Some vaccinated Arkansans frustrated with new state incentives to get COVID-19 vaccine

Arkansans who receive the COVID-19 vaccine are eligible for a $20 scratch off lottery ticket or an Arkansas Game & Fish Commission gift certificate. (Photo by KATV){p}{/p}
Arkansans who receive the COVID-19 vaccine are eligible for a $20 scratch off lottery ticket or an Arkansas Game & Fish Commission gift certificate. (Photo by KATV)

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The state of Arkansas is spending $2 million on incentives for people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Nearly 900,000 people have been fully immunized from COVID-19 before the new incentives were created. Some of those people said it doesn’t seem right to reward what they call “bad behavior.”

Those who get vaccinated beginning May 25 will have a choice of winning an Arkansas Lottery Scholarship $20 scratch-off ticket or a $20 gift certificate for the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission. Melissa Heath lives in Hot Springs and she got the vaccine at the beginning of March.

“My biggest incentive that I’ve received is not having to wear a mask absolutely everywhere I go. That is like a blessing,” Heath said. “I have health issues myself, so it’s harder to breathe when I have it on but I still wore it to protect people.”

Plus, she’s looking forward to a mask-less summer with her family. But when she found out the incentives, she said she was a little frustrated.

“I don’t think they should reward people to go get it when there is so many that have already gotten it. You need to do something for those people that actually wanted to help,” Heath said.

And she’s not the only person who feels this way. Mary Jones has lived in Little Rock for 45 years and she said she sees why Gov. Asa Hutchinson decided to offer incentives.

“I understand why he did that because other states are doing it but it should not have been necessary,” Jones said.

Jones said she was hesitant about getting the vaccine as well but she said protecting her family and friends was the biggest incentive for her to get the vaccine. Jones said for the people who refuse to get the vaccine because they think they’re going to get blood clots or have a heart attack, $20 would not sway them to get the vaccine.

KATV took viewer questions to ADH Deputy Director for Administration Don Adams. Many Arkansans wanted to know if taxpayer dollars were being used for the incentive program. Adams said it’s federal money, not state collected tax money.

“This is money we have received through the center for disease control, the CDC, grant funding we have received for our vaccination program,” Adams said.

It’s estimated the CDC has given Arkansas nearly $70 million in grant funding for vaccine distribution, education and promotion.

“We have a total of $6 million that could be used for these incentives and depending on the uptake and how much these incentives are used then we will evaluate whether we want to purchase more,” Adams said.

Something that people like Hather think might be needed.

“If people really wanted it and really were going to get it they would already have it and I don’t feel like the $20 is going to make a difference,” Heath said.

Adams said he understands that some Arkansans have health concerns when it comes to the vaccine, but he says it’s safe and the most effective way to keep them safe from the virus.

The Department of Health is running this program out of their local health units in each county.

It doesn't matter where Arkansans receive the COVID-19 vaccine, they will all be eligible for the incentives if they received the vaccine after May 25.

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