Gov. Tim Walz announced a new vaccine incentive program for young Minnesotans on Oct. 18 in an effort to get them fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The “Kids Deserve a Shot” vaccine incentive program will reward a $200 Visa gift card to 12-to-17-year-olds who both start and complete their vaccine series between Oct. 18 and Nov. 30. In order to be eligible for the program, they must receive their first dose between Oct. 18 and Nov. 9 and receive their second dose by the end of November.
It will also offer those who have completed their vaccination a chance at winning one of five $100,000 scholarships to attend any public or private nonprofit higher education institution in the state of Minnesota. The scholarship is available for all Minnesotans aged 12 to 17 who have completed their COVID-19 vaccine series at any point.
Minnesotans who enter the $100,000 Minnesota College Scholarship Drawings will also be entered to win other “fun Minnesota experiences.” The five drawings will be conducted weekly starting on Nov. 15.
“Our administration is dedicated to doing everything we can to keep our kids safe during this pandemic—and that includes working to get as many Minnesotans vaccinated as possible,” Walz said in an Oct. 18 statement. “We’re launching this program to help reward teens for doing their part by getting fully vaccinated and keeping our schools, community, and state safe.”
“To keep our schools safe for kids of all ages, we need our teens who are eligible now to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said. “Our children deserve a shot of protection from these safe, effective vaccines, and kids deserve a shot at these amazing rewards.”
Walz authorized $12.2 million in federal COVID-19 relief money for the latest incentive program, which is one of several that the Walz–Flanagan administration has launched to encourage Minnesotans to get a COVID-19 vaccine, such as a September program offering $100 on-site incentives for COVID-19 vaccines at community vaccination clinics around the state.
In total, President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan has provided $8.5 billion to Minnesota to support COVID-19 recovery efforts.
Minnesota is currently trying to ramp up its vaccination efforts across the state, particularly among young adolescents, who are the least-vaccinated yet eligible for vaccination. Currently, 50 percent of Minnesotans aged 12 to 15 and less than 60 percent of Minnesotans aged 16 to 17 are fully vaccinated, the lowest vaccination rates of all eligible age groups.
As of Oct. 17, 54 percent of kids aged 12 to 15 had received at least one vaccine dose, which amounts to 167,616 children, while 152,018 have had their full series, according to state data.
Parents who want their children to be eligible for the incentive must register online by filling out a form and uploading proof of their child’s vaccination status.
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) stated that it accesses the information solely for the purpose of the drawing and it remains private under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.
“MDH will use the information you provide to verify your child’s eligibility for the drawing and to contact you in the event your child is a prize winner. You are not legally required to provide your child’s information, but if you do not provide the required information (shown by a “*” symbol next to those items), your child will not be entered into the drawings,” the entry form reads.
But the latest incentive has been criticized by some lawmakers, including Minnesota state Rep. Jeremy Munson, a Republican, who accused Walz of “bribing children into taking a shot.”
“Gov. Walz is bribing children into taking a shot while incentivizing parents with a ridiculous chance of a lottery scholarship so they sign the permission slip,” Munson told local Minneapolis media outlet Alpha News.
“Congress has granted pharmaceutical manufacturers complete civil and criminal immunity from vaccine injuries and deaths. Nevertheless, Gov. Walz is trying to trick kids into getting a shot that President Biden has admitted could be harmful.”