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Free gas and groceries: St. Louis County OKs vaccine incentive program

Full details haven’t been worked out yet, but the county could use about $500,000 to buy grocery gift cards and $250,000 on gas cards

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — St. Louis County is hoping free groceries and gas will lure more people to roll up their sleeves and get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The county council approved a vaccine incentive program Tuesday night that could use up to $875,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to buy gift cards, which can then be given out to people who get vaccinated.

“I support this program if that’s what it takes to get those sitting on the fence to get a shot in their arm,” County Executive Sam Page said during a briefing Wednesday morning.

Full details haven’t been worked out yet, but the county could use about $500,000 to buy grocery gift cards and $250,000 on gas cards. More details about who would be eligible and all the logistics should be announced over the next couple weeks.

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With the delta variant surging in Missouri, Page said the county health department has seen an increase in total COVID-19 cases. Week over week, they’ve gone up more than 25% in the county, Page said.

“These cases are preventable,” the county executive stated.

The latest data on the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services dashboard shows 48.9% of St. Louis County residents have started the vaccination process, and 43.2% are fully vaccinated.

On Wednesday, St. Louis County also announced it will be ramping up efforts to get eligible children vaccinated before heading back to school in the fall. Page said teenagers are falling behind in their vaccination rate, with only about one-third of teens initiating the vaccine process.

Page said if children get vaccinated and they end up being eligible for the county's incentive program, it's the parents who would receive the gift cards since they are consenting to the vaccination.