Santa Clara County sweetens the deal to get vaccinated
People sign up for the COVID-19 vaccinations. A new omicron booster will be available next week. File photo by Vicente Vera.

    Boba, professional athlete meet-and-greets, live music and Starbucks gift cards are a few things you might expect to see if you’re getting vaccinated nowadays in Santa Clara County.

    Now that more than 1 million county residents are fully vaccinated, officials are offering a carrot for the rest of the population to get at least 85% of the county completely vaccinated by Aug. 1.

    Health care workers and the county are working against vaccine hesitancy and systemic barriers that have left Black and Latinx residents under-vaccinated compared to white and Asian residents. Male residents also lag behind their female counterparts. With that, the county is offering free incentives to get unvaccinated populations to vaccine sites.

    In other states with similar trends, such as Oregon and Ohio, officials enter vaccinated residents into a lottery for up to $1 million, while New York gives a free two-day state park pass to residents who get vaccinated by May 31.

    While California doesn’t have any statewide incentives, multiple cities and counties have designed ways to get people to show up for their shots. In Los Angeles, health officials are offering incentives including a chance to win Lakers season tickets or tickets to the touring Broadway sensation, “Hamilton.”

    Santa Clara County is rolling out new programs to reach the same populations that data shows are lagging behind.

    On Friday, the San Jose Earthquakes professional soccer team will help host a vaccination clinic at Overfelt High School in East San Jose from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

    “I am so excited to see the day when (PayPal Park) is filled with Earthquake fans again and that everybody is vaccinated,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez on Monday. “I know many of you have missed going to games and sitting in the beautiful bleachers.”

    The clinic at Overfelt will feature players from the soccer team, and attendees will have a chance to win signed jerseys and other prizes.

    Health officials said they keep track of how many people head to each vaccination site, but don’t record numbers to compare whether incentives beyond the vaccine bring out more people.

    “We have seen notable interest in the boba tea and other promotional activities associated with particular clinics on particular dates,” a Santa Clara County Public Health Department spokesperson told San José Spotlight, “which serve to make vaccine opportunities more fun and welcoming, especially for youth-oriented clinics.”

    The county plans to continue special events of all kinds to keep vaccine numbers trending upward.

    About 1,277,123 Santa Clara County residents 12 and older—74.5%—have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. About 1,050,839 people, or 51.3%, have received two doses. To date, 118,925 residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and 2,116 have died.

    For some residents, access to essential services such as food and housing is incentive enough to get inoculated. Earlier this month, San Jose and the county partnered to host a vaccination clinic that offered participants the chance to get housing referrals onsite.

    The event also brought out shuttle drivers to transport residents to local shelters. To reach unhoused residents, officials and volunteers canvassed neighborhoods and encampments to talk about the clinic and the services offered.

    A list of current and upcoming COVID-19 vaccination events geared toward Santa Clara County’s youth population. Image courtesy of Santa Clara County Public Health.

    Last week, the county public health department unveiled a series of “Vax with Pride” events planned just before the beginning of June, widely recognized as Pride Month. On May 22 at Aloha Roller Rink at East San Jose’s Eastridge Mall, all residents 12 and older got vaccinated while listening to a live DJ and had a chance to earn a $5 Starbucks gift card.

    For the next week, vaccination events geared toward younger Santa Clara County residents will offer Boba tea and a reusable straw to take home. The clinics are drop in, meaning no appointment is needed. Though the events are targeted toward adolescents, anyone who shows up and needs a shot can get vaccinated.

    A flier for a “Vax with Pride” events catered toward members of the LGBTQIA+ community and residents of color. Image courtesy of Santa Clara County Public Health.

    San Jose Earthquakes Vice President Jed Metee said the team planned future pop-up vaccine events at PayPal Park with incentives for people to get their shot.

    “(We’re) here to support the county,” Metee said Monday. “We’re excited to partner with the county again as we’ve done throughout the pandemic. We’re excited to bring the community back together and bring the stadium back to full capacity.”

    Contact Madelyn Reese at [email protected] or follow @MadelynGReese on Twitter.

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