(The Center Square) – As part of an initiative to get more West Virginians vaccinated against COVID-19, the state will issue $100 savings bonds for younger residents who opt to get the vaccine, Gov. Jim Justice announced.
Any West Virginian aged 16 through 35 who get vaccinated will receive the savings bond. It will also apply retroactively to any resident within that age group who has already gotten vaccinated. The state will use federal CARES Act funding to pay for the bond.
“We have vetted this in every way that we possibly can to be assured that we can use our CARES dollars to do exactly just this,” Justice said in a statement. “Our kids today probably don’t really realize just how important they are in shutting this thing down. I’m trying to come up with a way that’s truly going to motivate them – and us – to get over the hump.”
To date, about 52% of West Virginians have received at least one dose of the vaccine, but a disproportionate number of the recipients have been older residents. The governor’s goal is to get at least 70% of the state vaccinated. If 80% people within the age group affected by the bond get the vaccine, he said he will surpass that goal.
“[Younger people are] not taking vaccines as fast as we’d like them to take them,” Justice said. “If we really want to move the needle, we’ve got to get our younger people vaccinated. “...If we can get to 70% [of the whole population], we’ll shut this virus down. If we do that, the masks go away, the hospitalizations go away, and the deaths become minimal.”
The governor’s office said more information about the initiative will be released when it becomes available.
This week, West Virginia also resumed the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after a safety review from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.