By William Patrick, The Center Square
The Louisiana Department of Health has extended a COVID-19 vaccination giveaway called Shot for $100 as the state continues to provide taxpayer-funded incentives to the public.
Shot for $100 was launched in August as a $7.5 million perk for college students to go “sleeves up.” The initiative offered $100 preloaded debit cards for students age 18-29 to receive a dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine.
Gov. John Bel Edwards expanded the program to include all Louisianans with an end date of Oct. 31. The deadline was pushed to Nov. 30 while including 5-to-11-year-olds, then recently extended again to Dec. 31.
“With the holiday season upon us and the emergence of the new Omicron variant, there is a new sense of urgency around getting your vaccine,” State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter said Tuesday upon announcing the latest incentive extension.
To collect the $100, eligible residents need to register at ShotFor100.com, which requires entering personal identity information, the date of vaccination and a unique 10-digit vaccine code. The information is retained per program rules.
“The Louisiana Department of Health maintains the records and personal data of those who have had COVID-19 vaccinations administered at non-federal facilities in Louisiana within a secure computer system,” the policy reads.
According to a Health Department statement, more than 34,300 preloaded debit cards have been distributed as of Monday. The agency also is providing cash incentives for high school students to get tested for COVID-19 in participating schools districts.
In East Baton Rouge, students can receive $25 for their first nasal swab test and $10 for each additional test. Teachers and school staff also can benefit from the testing giveaways; up to $350 this school year.
Orleans, Jefferson, Bogalusa and Zachary parish school districts also are participating, as is the state’s Special School District for children with disabilities.
The Health Department said the funds for the Shot for $100 and high school testing incentive programs come from federal coronavirus relief funds.
Louisiana’s $2.3 million Shot at a Million vaccine lottery also was federally funded, though studies have shown taxpayer-funded lottery programs produce negligible results.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found no difference in vaccination rates across the 19 states that spent millions on vaccine lotteries and states that did not.
“No statistically significant association was detected between a cash-drawing announcement and the number of vaccinations before or after the announcement date, a period that included announcements of lottery winners for most lottery states,” the authors said.
A separate study published July 2 found vaccine lotteries do not increase “vaccine uptake,” though Louisiana’s program begin selecting lottery winners weeks later.
“It is important to rigorously evaluate strategies designed to increase vaccine uptake, rapidly deploy successful strategies, and phase out those that do not work,” said Allan J. Walkey, a physician at Boston Medical Center and study author.
According to the Department of Health, Louisiana remains one of the least-vaccinated states in the country. The department’s most figures show 2.5 million residents have had at least one vaccine dose, or roughly half the state population.