Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Austin Public Health Offering Gift Cards To Encourage All COVID-19 Vaccinations, Booster Doses

COVID-19 vaccination rates in Austin-Travis County remain static among low income communities and Travis County areas with limited access to clinics and pharmacies. To raise the vaccine uptake in our community, Austin Public Health (APH) will be offering gift cards to those who receive any dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. After much feedback on barriers to getting the shot, this incentive will be some relief for those who have to take unpaid time off work. Data shows those who are unvaccinated have worse symptoms and could be hospitalized, which ultimately causes more missed days from work or school.  

“With the Public Health Emergency set to end in May, the availability of free COVID-19 vaccines will likely drop,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “There's still time to get fully vaccinated and receive your booster dose. Now is the best time to get that next shot” 

In recent months APH has noted a decrease in demand for COVID-19 vaccines, especially first and second doses. APH’s COVID-19 Vaccine Incentive Program, which offered gift cards to those receiving their first and second doses, also saw a drop in interest. APH will now be offering these gift cards to: 

  • Anyone (of any age) that is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and
  • Anyone receiving their first, second, or booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

The number of patients who could receive a gift card before these changes was limited due to eligibility restrictions from the funding source.  

The following vaccination rates are cause for concern in Austin-Travis County (as of March 1): 

  • 59.6% of Black residents, 39.6% of Hispanic residents and 37.4% of White residents remain unvaccinated. 
  • Only 38.2% of our entire population has received an additional dose following the primary series. 
  • Less than half (41.5%) of 5-to-11-year-olds and only a tenth (10.3%) of 6 6-month-to-4-year-olds have completed their primary series. 

“It’s important for everyone to remember we’re still in a pandemic; COVID-19 hasn’t gone away, its presence is being felt every day in doctor’s offices and hospitals,” said APH Director Adrienne Sturrup. “Let’s make Austin and Travis County a safer place for you and me by getting up to date with your vaccines.” 

You can find a list of upcoming APH events here

Vaccine Providers   

Visit Vaccines.gov (Vacunas.gov in Spanish) to find flu and COVID-19 vaccine providers near you.        

Free COVID-19 tests    

Free mail-order rapid antigen test kits are available once again through covid.gov/tests. Households are eligible for another round of four tests for a limited time.    

At-home COVID-19 test kits are available at APH Neighborhood Centers while supplies last. The U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services also lists community-based testing sites online.     

Free masks (N-95 respirators)     

Use the CDC’s mask-locator tool to find pharmacies near you that provide free masks (N-95 respirators). It does not show current inventories, so check with the location for availability.