West Virginia is set to offer young people a $100 savings bond to get vaccinated against coronavirus.
Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced Monday he plans to use a small slice of the state’s anticipated $2 billion in federal pandemic funding for testing, protective equipment and economic relief, to pay people to get shots in their arms to protect against COVID-19 as vaccine hesitancy looms large.
“It would be such a drop in the bucket compared to the ungodly amount of money we’re spending right now,” Justice said during an interview with The Washington Post Tuesday.
At a meeting Friday with health officials, the governor crunched the numbers and said it would cost roughly $27.5 million for his state to pay $100 to every person between the ages of 16 to 35 to get a shot.
West Virginia’s proposed response comes as demand for the vaccine has plummeted particularly among young people, even though every American adult is now eligible to receive a vaccine.
“Our kids today probably don’t really realize just how important they are in shutting this thing down,” Justice told NPR after making the announcement during a briefing earlier this week. “I’m trying to come up with a way that’s truly going to motivate them — and us — to get over the hump.”
During the Post interview, the governor said he would tell critics to “kiss my butt,” if his state is able to pull off the incentive-based vaccination program he’s mulling for a bill that’s just a fraction of the $75 million West Virginia had spent on testing for coronavirus over the past year.
Justice added that he estimates the program would cost up to $27.5 million if about 72 percent of the state’s 380,000 young people nab the offer which, he said, would also be available retroactively to young people who are already vaccinated.
The proposal by the Republican governor follows outrage by GOP state leaders who have actively opposed mandating vaccinations or using “vaccine passports” — both issues the White House has repeatedly said would not become federal mandates.
Among eligible adults, 48 percent of West Virginians have not yet received a single shot to protect against coronavirus — and many of them are young people.
“We’ve knew at some point in time we were going to hit a wall on vaccinations,” Justice said. “We got kids out there transmitting this thing like crazy because they think they’re invincible.”