Clarkston is newest municipality to pay residents to get vaccinated

FILE PHOTO USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES: DeKalb County Board of Health R.N. Sheila Alexander administers a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to Nurse Care Coordinator Yolanda Bell at the T. O. Vinson Health Center Auditorium on Winn Way in Decatur on Dec. 31, 2020. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Clarkston, GA — Clarkston residents will soon have a new incentive to get vaccinated.

The city plans to issue $50 gift cards through local clinics to residents who get a COVID-19 vaccine.  Clarkston is setting aside $10,000 of American Rescue Plan funds received this week for the new incentive.

A city official said details are still being ironed out, but up to three clinics will offer gift cards. A mobile health unit may also participate.

Health clinics in Clarkston, like Ethne Health and Clarkston Community Health Center, are not conducting daily testing for COVID-19. Vaccines must be scheduled due to limited supply.

Councilmember Jamie Carroll said the primary use for the city’s $2.3 million allotment of American Rescue Plan funds is to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 pandemic on the community.

Following in DeKalb County’s footsteps, Carroll said the spending could be increased if the program is popular. In DeKalb County, 44 percent of residents are vaccinated according to CEO Michael Thurmond, who urged residents to protect themselves due to a recent rise in COVID-19 cases.

“It may not be a total game changer, but anything we can do to increase the vaccination numbers, considering how COVID is really a huge impact on our community, is important,” said Carroll.

American Rescue Plan funds will go toward rent, mortgage and utility assistance, food distribution and health, said City Manager Robin Gomez.

Councilmember Laura Hopkins spoke in favor of the incentive.

“A lot of us might have gotten very smug and overconfident because we were vaccinated, but we do have students out at Emory right because they have gotten COVID and they are vaccinated. Vaccinated people are definitely getting it,” said Hopkins.

Hopkins, who works at Emory University School of Medicine, said the majority of new COVID-19 cases are in unvaccinated people.

“We have not been doing great, compared to the rest of DeKalb County. When the rest of DeKalb County’s numbers were going down, Clarkston was going up. I want to do everything I can to get people out and get vaccinated – and still exercise caution even if you can’t get vaccinated,” said Hopkins.

Councilmember Awet Eyasu asked if people receiving the incentive need to be residents of Clarkston. “Do they have to live in the city limits? How are they going to check?” he asked.

Mayor Beverly H. Burks proposed using $75,000 of American Rescue Plan funds for health programs to prevent the spread of disease and educate residents about COVID. She said Georgia State University’s Prevention Research Center is addressing health disparities that make people more susceptible to COVID-19.

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