Officials in Texas, at both the state and local level, are devising ways to encourage more Texans to get vaccinated, attempting to sweeten the pot with free giftcards, bobbleheads, and other items, as half the state remains unvaccinated.
Vaccination efforts are underway in every state across the country, but not everyone is sold on receiving a vaccination for the Chinese coronavirus, even as availability opens to all adults. Residents of Texas are no exception.
According to Texas Health and Human Services, over 11.1 million people in the Lone Star state have been vaccinated. Of those, roughly 8 million are considered “fully vaccinated.” Overall, nearly 50 percent of the state’s population has been vaccinated for the virus, per the state’s May 3 data.
But now, the state is facing a different issue, as supply is exceeding demand. As such, the state is looking for creative ways to urge more Texans to receive the shot.
Boxes of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine sit on a table at a vaccination site at a senior center in San Antonio, Texas. Texas has had a slower roll out than some states and with the increase in eligibility leaders are hoping more and more citizens get vaccinated. (Sergio Flores/Getty Images)
This includes “trucks driving through small rural towns with LED signs, a $1.5 million TV and digital ad campaign and a truck with a large video screen stopping at Walmart parking lots in 22 Texas cities, playing five-minute loops customized for each stop with ads, [and] local leaders encouraging residents to get vaccinated and testimonials pulled from social media,” per the Texas Tribune.
Localities are following suit, attempting to find ways to encourage people to get vaccinated. According to the Houston Chronicle, the Harris County Commissioners Court approved $250,000 in spending for vaccine incentives, including gift cards, events, firework displays, and gifts such as bobblehead dolls of Houston Astros star Jose Altuve.
“We desperately need these people to get vaccinated, particularly the young people,” County Judge Lina Hidalgo said.
“I asked you to be as creative as we possibly can because I don’t want to sit here a month from now and see the numbers worsen, or see this pandemic extended, and say ‘If we had just done X, would we have avoided this situation?’” she Hildalgo added.
Like the Tribune, the Chronicle also noted the decrease in vaccine demand in recent weeks:
The NRG Park vaccine clinic run jointly between the county and FEMA is administering half of its allotted 6,000 doses every day. And while one third of all Texans 16 and older are vaccinated, Texas Medical Center administrators and commissioners alike worry about the slowing rate of vaccinations.
Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt has since urged vaccine providers to continue to push the vaccine, pitching it as “our path out of the pandemic and back to normal lives.”
“Our research shows that individual health care providers are the most trusted voices for people deciding whether to get vaccinated. Over the coming weeks, we will continue to share messages encouraging various communities to get vaccinated,” he said, calling on trusted members of the community to “speak up and let their neighbors know that these COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to end the pandemic and restore normalcy.”
Officials in Texas are not the only figures scrambling to encourage more vaccinations. Last week, former President Barack Obama participated in a Tik Tok video, encouraging young people to get the vaccine.
Patients are observed for fifteen minutes after being vaccinated at a vaccination site at a senior center in San Antonio, Texas. Texas has opened up all vaccination eligibility to all adults. (Sergio Flores/Getty Images)
“The vaccine is safe. It’s effective. It’s free. I got one. Michelle got one. People you know got one. And now, you can get one too,” he said, describing it as the “only way we’re going to get back to all the things we love — from safely spending time with grandparents to going to concerts and watching live sports.”
“So get the vaccine as soon as you can,” Obama added.
Over 105 million people in the United States are “fully vaccinated,” per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) May 3 data.