Oct 18, 2021 - COVID
Minnesota offers cash and chance at $100K scholarship as vaccine incentive for teens
Data: Minnesota COVID-19 Response; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Minnesota is offering new incentives to shot-wary teens in an effort to boost the state's COVID-19 vaccination rates.

Driving the news: 12 to 17 year olds who get both doses over the next six weeks will receive a $200 Visa gift card, Gov. Tim Walz's administration announced Monday.

  • Kids vaccinated during this period can also enter a lottery for one of five $100,000 scholarships to attend any of the state's public or private colleges or universities.

Why it matters: Public health officials say increasing vaccination rates among young Minnesotans is key to curbing spread of the virus, especially in schools.

Plus: More students with protection should lead to fewer classroom cases and quarantines.

  • "We want to keep our students and our staff in their buildings where we know they can be the most effective," St. Paul Superintendent Joe Gothard said at a news conference touting the program.

The big picture: The Delta variant wave that is waning nationwide continues to stress Minnesota and its health systems.

  • More than 1,000 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized as of Friday, and the state's infection rate remained the nation's seventh worst, per the Star Tribune.
  • Meanwhile, teens and tweens lag older residents when it comes to vaccination rates. Roughly half of Minnesotans 12-15 have received two shots. For those 16 and 17, the share rises slightly, to 56%.

Yes, but: It's to be seen whether cash and scholarship offers will move the needle for enough families to make a big difference in the state's vaccination rate.

  • A study published Friday in Jama Health Forum found that incentive programs in 19 states this summer didn't actually impact shot levels, Axios' Ivana Saric reports.
  • Still, leaders here say response to previous incentives — such as the $100 gift cards at the State Fair — inspired this push.

What's next: Children ages 5-11 could become eligible for jabs within the next month.

  • While most parents of younger kids are expected to head to a pediatrician or pharmacy for those shots, state officials are still working out which community sites will offer the lower doses for children, Health commissioner Jan Malcolm said.
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