DES MOINES, Iowa — With back-to-school dates right around the corner, health officials are doing everything they can to get children ages 12-17 vaccinated.
The Polk County Board of Supervisors started an incentive program beginning in June to help get more youth vaccinated. For sports teams, bands, or other extracurricular groups, the county is offering over $100 checks for each member of the club that is vaccinated — money the teams can use for equipment, travel, jerseys, or whatever else might be needed.
“This is all through the American Recovery Act, and this is something that was been pushed out to get as many people safe in our community with COVID vaccines,” says Supervisor Angela Connolly.
She says these efforts are needed as the delta variant becomes more pervasive across Iowa.
“We started this back, the end of June not that knowing that we would be actually facing some trends that are higher than what we anticipated but you know schools right around the corner,” says Connolly.
Iowa law prevents schools from requiring masks, giving public health officials concern about protecting unvaccinated children.
“We have the ability for students to return safely to school. The issue is, we’ve been handcuffed by our current leadership, handcuffed to not listen to science,” says Dr. Megan Srinivas, an infectious disease specialist.
Srinivas welcomes the incentives, but says it’s hard to measure their efficacy, “What we really need is a study to look more closely at this to see exactly if it is working, and if so, which type of incentives are working the best and to whom?”
Connolly says, ”I think, the first week or two was it was a little disappointing, but last week our numbers went up over 800 more.”
Srinivas says countries like France have seen the highest vaccine response by limiting what activities its citizens can partake in if un-vaccinated.
“So the question really comes to the point of, do we need to incentivize people to get vaccinated by giving them more of access to goods by vaccination,” questions Srinivas.
But with no restrictions in Iowa, Srinivas is doubtful. She hopes stressing how much more dangerous the delta variant is will motivate people to roll up their sleeves.
“We’re about to head into another surge, if we don’t curtail things. And when I say surge, I don’t mean to small numbers, increasing cases, I mean to the point where we can see our hospitals overwhelmed again,” said Srinivas.