States offer gift cards, clinics at baseball games, worksite shots in push to increase vaccinations

Photo by Parker Michels-Boyce for States Newsroom.

WASHINGTON — Maine officials are enticing residents to get a COVID-19 vaccine by offering free fishing or hunting licenses and L.L. Bean gift cards. Ohio has the National Guard taking shots to the lobbies of senior housing facilities, so those residents only need to come downstairs.

And in Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz says that if residents of his state need another reason to get their shots, they should “go get vaccinated, so you’re alive to vote against me in the next election.”

Governors of those states, along with chief executives from Utah, Massachusetts and New Mexico, met with Biden virtually Tuesday afternoon, detailing their latest efforts to vaccinate their residents, as the drive intensifies amid declining vaccination rates.

Biden praised the bipartisan group, saying public health steps taken by state and local officials throughout the COVID-19 pandemic were responsible for saving the lives of thousands of Americans.

“You’ve been great partners in this effort. I hope we haven’t been an impediment,” Biden told them. “We’ve tried like hell to include and engage you all as much as we possibly could and not get in the way.”

Their vaccination work is far from over. Biden has set a goal that 70% of American adults will have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by the Fourth of July. So far, 59% of adults have gotten at least one dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, told Biden that 67% of adults in Maine have received one dose of the vaccine, with 53% of those eligible fully vaccinated. She described the challenges inherent in an older, rural state — but quipped that Mainers had few problems with social-distancing.

“When we asked people in Maine to stay 6 feet apart,” Mills said, “some people asked, ‘Why so close?’”

Walz described high rates of vaccination among workers at pork and poultry processing facilities, crediting one young organizer who went door-to-door to build trust among workers.

Another technique? Offering shots at the minor league baseball game that Walz said he would be attending in St. Paul on Tuesday evening.

In Ohio, DeWine, a Republican, said local health department officials have knocked on doors to try to find those who may not be able to make it to a vaccine site. State officials have worked with labor groups and businesses to offer vaccination clinics on work sites.

There’s been a lot of interest in walk-up clinics that don’t require an appointment, and a “strong appetite” for the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot, DeWine added.

But states may see more limitations on how many of those one-dose shots they receive. The J&J shot already was temporarily paused as federal health officials reviewed cases of a rare but serious blood clotting condition.

Manufacturing issues are poised to limit access to that vaccine once again, with Politico reporting that states will not receive any J&J doses next week. White House officials did not respond to a request for comment.

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