Vaccine incentives suggested in Fresno County as hundreds of COVID-19 variant cases identified

Local News

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KGPE) – As the low demand for the COVID-19 vaccine continues in Fresno County, the Department of Public Health continues to look for ways to reach more people. Soon, they could be using incentives.

“We’re talking gift cards to grocery stores, gift cards to Starbucks,” said Joe Prado, who has been leading the vaccine distribution effort in Fresno County. “But there is going to be a very tailored focus for each of these cities and metropolitan areas.”

Health officials are trying to ramp up their vaccination numbers as the demand has fallen for the last couple of weeks. Next week, they are requesting just 3,000 doses.

Around 80% of Fresno County’s 65 years and older population has been vaccinated with at least one dose, according to the Department of Public Health. Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra during the COVID-19 weekly virtual presser expressed concern about the younger population.

“Now I’m worried about the 40-year-old person who may be pre-diabetic or hypertensive and just doesn’t understand that they are at risk. Because that’s who’s gonna go to the hospital with COVID if they don’t get their protection from the vaccine,” Vohra said.

On top of vaccine hesitancy, Vohra said they also have now been notified by the state of 306 cases of variants of concern. Around 250 are the California variant, 40 are the UK variant and the rest are either the Brazil or South Africa variant, Vohra said.

“These do represent a potential threat for creating problems for us and that’s because these are variants of concern that are known to be more contagious,” he said.

And Fresno County is also facing another challenge. Hundreds of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine doses could go to waste if they’re not administered by the end of May due to their expiration date.

When asked whether they could move the doses to other counties, Prado said there isn’t a demand for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“Not a lot of people are asking for Johnson & Johnson right now. That pause definitely impacted the community’s point of view,” Prado said.

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