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Minnesota launches $200 vaccine incentive program

(The Center Square) – Families who get their child in the 5- to 11-year-old age group vaccinated for COVID-19 are eligible for a new round of $200 incentives, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced Tuesday.

Families will receive one $200 VISA gift card per child who receives both doses between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28, the news release said. Registration for the gift cards, which is possible following completion of the series, opens at 10 a.m. Jan. 24 and closes at 11:59 p.m. Feb. 28.

“In light of the Omicron variant, there is a new sense of urgency in our response, and we are doing whatever we can to encourage Minnesotans to get their vaccine and keep themselves and their communities safe,” Minnesota Department of Health Information Officer Doug Schultz told The Center Square in an emailed statement Thursday. “Getting as many eligible Minnesotans vaccinated as possible is critical to helping curb the spread of COVID-19 and keep Minnesota families safe.”

Minnesota is one of the leaders in the nation in vaccinating children 5- to-11 years old, but this age group has the lowest rate of vaccination in the state, the Tuesday release said.

Schultz said only 26% of Minnesotans in the age group are fully vaccinated, which is three months after they became eligible to get the vaccine. Vaccinations among Minnesotans aged 12 to 17 increased 40% within a week of the launch of the initial “Kids Deserve a Shot” campaign, an October news release from Walz’s office said.

“We hope this will serve as an incentive for families to get vaccinated as early in the new year as possible to keep our kids safe and in school,” he said.

There is no limit to the number of families that can receive the incentive, Schultz said. All Minnesota children who receive their doses by a registration deadline will be eligible for entry into a drawing that spring that will offer five $100,000 Minnesota college scholarships. More details about the programs are available here.

Parents should speak with their child’s pediatrician or pharmacist or review the Department of Health’s information if they need more details on COVID-19 vaccines, he said. Families seeking vaccination for their children can locate clinic locations at mn.gov/covid19/vaccine/vaxforkids/, check with their doctor or pharmacist about appointments, or watch for vaccination clinics at schools or other community locations around the state.

Kaiser Family Foundation’s COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor Winter 2021 update, released Dec. 9, 2021, found that nationally, about three in 10 parents of 5 to 11-year-olds said in November 2021 that their child had received the COVID-19 vaccine or would do so “right away,” while 32% said they would “wait and see.” Seven percent said they would only get the vaccine for them if it were required, and 29% said they would “definitely not” get them the vaccine.

Itasca County Public Health Division Manager Kelly Chandler told The Center Square in an emailed statement Thursday said that based on vaccine rates for the age group, it appears there is some hesitancy, compared with rates in other age groups.

“Most often the reasons we are hearing on hesitancy for this age group are that the vaccines are too new, not researched enough, and that the actual illness is not severe enough to warrant receiving the vaccine,” she said.

Minnesotans in general can find a vaccine provider using the state’s Vaccine Locator Map, check for vaccine appointments at Vaccines.gov, contact their primary health care provider or local pharmacy, walk in or make an appointment at one of the state’s Community Vaccination sites.

The Minnesota Department of Health’s COVID-19 Public Hotline is available 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at 1-833-431-2053. Residents can look for testing options at COVID-19 Community Testing Sites, the state’s Find Testing Locations map, or by ordering a test through the state’s free COVID-19 Test at Home program.

Negative lab tests for COVID-19 or COVID-19 vaccine receipt for COVID-19 will be required beginning Jan. 19 in Minneapolis and Saint Paul for anyone seeking entry to dining establishments, the cities’ mayors announced Wednesday. These requirements apply to anyone over age five in both cities. Children aged two to four need to test negative in Minneapolis.

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