Vaccine incentives are becoming more and more popular across the country to get people protected from COVID-19. KSUT’s Sarah Flower spoke with Liane Jollon of San Juan Basin Public Health about how incentivising vaccines has been successful for them.
Sarah Flower: Hi, I'm Sarah flower with KSUT News. Today we are joined with Executive Director of San Juan Basin Public Health Department, Liane Jollon. Liane, this past week, a big announcement was made from San Juan Basin Public Health in regards to vaccine incentives. And we touched on this a little bit last week, but now you're really partnering with community businesses to try to get more and more people out there vaccinated. Let's talk about a shot for a beer or a beer for a shot, what do you call it?
Liane Jollon: We call it "a shot and a beer." And so I think I'll just start with, you know, what the business community, we know that this whole pandemic has been really hard on businesses everywhere. And we also know that, the more people who are vaccinated, the less infection we're going to see in any community. And this is really how we get, our businesses back on track and get back to normal. So lots of businesses have been asking to participate in different ways to incentivize people to get vaccinated. So the first promotion that we did was with Ska Brewing, it was "a shot and a beer", we had 250 people come out this weekend to get a beer with their shot. And these are people who hadn't gotten vaccinated yet. So, you know, not everyone has taken advantage right out of the gates, people's lives are complicated. There's competing pressures, there's, you know, all kinds of things that get in the way. And by adding that little extra push, we saw 250 people come out in a few hours on Saturday, they were excited to get to get a beer with their shot. So we have other businesses in the community that are planning to do other types of incentives and offers, you know, we hear that Colorado is planning, also some incentives and some offers statewide. So these are just kind of nudges, to get people over the hump, if you've been putting it off. Here's one more reason, aside from all of the other reasons, which is it protects you, it protects your family, it protects your community, it protects your workplace, keeps your paycheck coming. So these are all really good reasons. And now sometimes people just need one more little reason
Sarah Flower: It's funny, it's kind of like, you know, eat your vegetables, and you can have a dessert afterwards, this whole idea of vaccine incentive, it's great. And it's really curious at the same time.
Liane Jollon: You know there are programs like that, right? Like, there are some things where we pay, you know, kids to develop good eating habits, right, like we give kids a year allowance. If you eat all your vegetables, and you don't get your allowance. If you spoil your dinner with a sleeve of Oreo cookies right before dinner, you know, hiding in your bedroom, I hear things like that happen, right? You know, it's not unusual that this is how we motivate people to just give them a little extra push.
Sarah Flower: Now let's talk about kids, the 12 to 17 year old demographic that has been eligible now for a few weeks to get the vaccine. How are we doing in La Plata County and Archuleta County with that demographic coming out to get vaccinated?
Liane Jollon: Well, overall, we have almost 30% of our 12 to 17 year olds and have started are 12 to 15 year olds who have been eligible for less time than 16 and 17 year olds, we have about 20%. So one out of five has gotten started already here in La Plata County. And in Archuleta County, the numbers are running a little bit behind, we have less than 10% of 12 to 15 year olds started. And we have about 15% of 12 to 17 year olds started. So we just want to remind people that you know, if you have middle or high school aged kids, it's been really tough. It's really hard to live in this land of unknowns where you don't know if your classroom is going to stay open. You don't know if your games are going to be canceled. We've all heard horror stories of kids making state meets or state tournaments and not knowing if they're going to get to go, not knowing what problems are going to look like. So we're really hoping that the middle and high school kids really do take advantage of this opportunity to just add some certainty to their life going into summer. And next school year.
Sarah Flower: I did an interview a while back with Pediatric Partners of the Southwest, and while kids are not getting as sick as older people, it's the mental health that they were really encouraging. Dr. Jessica Marsh was saying that it's the mental health aspect to keep these kids mentally sane as well as protecting them and the community from COVID-19, which I think is an interesting push to get the children vaccinated.
Liane Jollon: I mean, we all remember being 12, being 14, being 16, you know, those are, those can be rough years and everything is magnified. Right now you don't have the same perspective that this too shall pass. And so the idea that if you're unvaccinated living in that time, you know, not being able to do things that you really expect to celebrate milestones and move on to the next level and reap the rewards of things that you're earning. You know, it was really, really tough and so vaccine is the pathway to create that consistency. So I see that as a really great point is that of course, it's going to help with our kids, you know, mental health and behavioral health just to add some more knowns and take away some of the uncertainties
Sarah Flower: So being around this community and being out more than I have been really in the last 15 months, it's so interesting. Trying not to judge people who aren't wearing a mask, as the CDC has those guidelines, if you're fully vaccinated, this whole idea of the honor system, Liane, really throws me off because I don't feel like I trust people anymore. But but it is interesting, it's like, oh, yeah, you're allowed to not have a mask on indoors. And I would love to hear from you personally, your thoughts of what this is all going to look like, moving forward.
Liane Jollon: The vaccines are studied for safety. And so the very first thing is, are they safe, and then it's what is their effectiveness. So the vaccines that we have in the U.S. received emergency use authorization, because they're very, very safe. And they're very, very effective at preventing severe illness or death for the person, so they protect you. Then there was additional scientific evidence, which is out in the real world. They also protect transmission from vaccinated to unvaccinated. So with that the CDC was able to change recommendations. So I think what we're, you know, sort of living through this transition period, this all happened while Colorado still had kind of at an unusually high rate of infection. So we are still recommending that people keep their face coverings on in public settings until we bring our cases down, and there's just less virus floating around. So for you to say, hey, you know, I'm not sure about this yet. Right, that we're not sure about it either. That's why we issued this advisory, we have seen Colorado's rates really, really starting to come down in the last week. And we've seen that happen here locally as well. Now, it hasn't been 100%, we've had a day or two, where we've seen kind of concerningly, high numbers. You know, we also hear about things like big outdoor events where people are coming back testing positive and saying, well, I was at this large, outdoor event where no one was masked. Could that be where I picked it up? It's possible, right? We don't know for sure. Because it's really hard to trace back where did someone get it definitively. But because Colorado's rates are still pretty high, we're still asking people to be careful. So then what does this turn into over time? Well, over time, we increase the vaccination rate, there's less people who are in the susceptible pool, and the virus hits more dead ends. And we start to see just the case rate, just be something that's really manageable in the background. That's what we're all hoping for. But again, there's big unknowns about what happens next fall as we move activities back inside, as kids are back in school, as colleges are back in session. You know, there's always the chance that there are pockets of unvaccinated groups of people where we're just going to have outbreaks and we're going to have high rates of disease, but contained in smaller groups of people.
Sarah Flower: Liane Jolon, Executive Director of San Juan Basin Public Health Department, anything else you want to add for us here today?
Liane Jollon: No, I think we're all looking forward to a holiday weekend. And, you know, we will keep our advisory in place through the end of May. So please just continue to do the right thing here locally so we can keep seeing our case rates come down and look at that consistent drop before we lift our advisory.
Sarah Flower: Liane, thanks so much for your time today and every Monday here on KSUT for our weekly COVID-19 update.