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Starting Saturday, D.C. residents can get gift cards when they get vaccinated

People wait after receiving coronavirus vaccine doses at an outdoor tented clinic.
People wait after receiving coronavirus vaccine doses at an outdoor tented clinic. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)
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In her latest push to get D.C. residents vaccinated against the coronavirus, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has announced a new incentive: $51 Visa gift cards.

Starting Saturday, District residents 12 and older who receive their first vaccine dose at the R.I.S.E Demonstration Center, Anacostia High School or Ron Brown College Preparatory High School will receive a $51 gift card after getting their shot, Bowser (D) said in a statement.

The promotion — a nod to the District’s quest to become the 51st state — will last through July 17.

Bowser’s announcement came ahead of the city’s third community “Day of Action” this Saturday — when volunteers and community leaders knock on doors to engage with unvaccinated residents in hopes of motivating them to get inoculated.

Residents who are vaccinated Saturday at Anacostia High School will also be eligible for an additional incentive, Bowser said: They’ll be entered to win two round-trip American Airlines tickets to anywhere the airline flies, applicable to domestic and international flights.

Beer, bouquets and free rounds at a gun range: How local governments promote vaccines

The vaccinations approved over the last seven months provide overwhelming protection against covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, which has infected nearly 50,000 D.C. residents and killed more than 1,100 during the course of the pandemic.

As more people have gotten vaccinated in the greater Washington area, virus cases have plummeted. On Friday, the seven-day average for new daily cases had dropped to 1.27 per 100,000 residents in Maryland, 1.63 per 100,000 residents in Virginia and 1.7 per 100,000 residents in D.C. During the height of the pandemic, that metric was about 46 cases per 100,000 in D.C., 53 per 100,000 in Maryland and 65 per 100,000 in Virginia, according to The Washington Post coronavirus database.

Officials for months have tried various ways to motivate residents to get the shots, such as free beer or free flowers for Mother’s Day. This month, City Administrator Kevin Donahue announced that D.C. was offering eight hours of paid leave to any city government employee who had received the vaccine — at the time, he said officials were still exploring the efficacy of financial incentives.

The state of Maryland has offered a $100 bonus to all fully vaccinated state employees, and launched a daily lottery with a top prize of $400,000. Ohio offered a lottery and college scholarships.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week that at least 70 percent of adults in the District had received one vaccine dose, meeting a benchmark set by the White House — but more granular city data shows some areas of the city are still lagging far behind others.

In Wards 7 and 8, home to some of the city’s most impoverished and majority-Black neighborhoods, just 26 percent and 20 percent of residents are fully vaccinated, respectively, according to data the city released this week. In comparison, more than 45 percent of residents are fully vaccinated in Ward 3, which features some of D.C.’s wealthiest and Whitest neighborhoods.

City officials say they have targeted door-knocking efforts in neighborhoods with low vaccine uptake.

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