Cooper visits Charlotte as NC nears rollout of financial perks for vaccinations

CHARLOTTE — On Thursday, Cooper visited the StarMed vaccination facility in west Charlotte. The visit comes on the heels of his statement on Wednesday that he’s preparing to announce additional financial incentives to get more people vaccinated.

[ ALSO READ: Bill to give NC returning workers $1,500 bonuses approved by Senate ]

A rollout would likely follow a new pilot program set to end next week in four counties. Unvaccinated people can receive $25 cash cards at select locations in Mecklenburg, Guilford, Rowan and Rockingham counties while supplies last. Drivers who take others to get their first COVID-19 shot are also eligible for the $25 reward.

“We’re continuing to look at ways to incentivize people to get vaccinations and we’ve looked very closely at the drawings and other promotions that other states have done and have looked at their results, and hopefully we will be following some of their lead soon,” Cooper said.

The Democratic governor hinted at the idea of financial perks during a March 23 news conference, though he noted he’d begin considering them as supply started to outpace demand.

Vaccine distribution has stalled in North Carolina over the past month, and the state is near the bottom of the pack in the nation in its share of vaccinated adults.

[ Cooper announces next application period to help people with rent, utilities ]

At its peak, more than 400,000 North Carolinians went to state providers or federal partners for their first COVID-19 shot during the week of March 8, according to data from the state Department of Health and Human Services. More data is still being collected, but figures the department released Wednesday show fewer than 69,000 residents got their first dose last week, which represents an 83% drop in weekly demand from the March 8 high.

“We’re pulling out all the stops to try to make sure that vaccines are convenient, they’re easy, that folks can access them, give some additional incentives beyond the fact that they protect you and your community,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state’s top public health official. “I’m still hopeful that there is progress for us to make here.”

North Carolina ranks as the 14th worst state in COVD-19 vaccine doses administered per capita, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state is now using census tract data to more precisely identify and target communities with large unvaccinated populations.

Cohen said Wednesday that participating vaccine sites in the four counties distributed almost 1,000 cards to vaccine recipients and more than 375 cards to drivers in the first week of the pilot program.

“The financial support is making a difference in getting more people vaccinated,” Cooper said.

The governor did not say whether the rewards would go to unvaccinated people who show up for a shot, existing vaccinated residents or a combination of both. Cooper said he’s reviewing potential legal issues and is discussing plans with state agencies, lawmakers and Council of State members.

North Carolina is still pretty far away from the target of 70% of adults vaccinated. Currently, that number is about 50%.

Cooper said if people have any doubts at all or are on the fence about whether to get a COVID-19 vaccine, they should have a conversation.

“If you are unsure for any reason, do one thing for me -- ask your doctor. Ask your doctor what you should do and then do it,” he said.

Other states are offering larger prizes if you get your shot. In Ohio, they’re giving out one million dollars a week, plus a four-year full ride scholarship to college.

West Virginia is doing something similar but it’s also giving out hunting and fishing licenses and a chance to win custom hunting rifles.

So far, the largest prize we’ve seen is in New Mexico, where the grand prize is five million dollars.

(WATCH: UNCC to provide incentives for students who get vaccinated)