Greene County offers $50 gift cards, $15K in prizes at upcoming COVID vaccine events
A push to get more Greene County families vaccinated against COVID-19 in time for the holidays has health, school and nonprofit leaders working together to offer special times to get the shot and a slew of prizes.
Individuals age 5 and up who get their first or second dose at two upcoming events will be eligible to receive a $50 gift card, as supplies last, and be entered into a drawing for up to $15,000 in prizes.
"Families who are vaccinated before winter break will be receiving and giving the gift of health," said Superintendent Grenita Lathan. "In addition, these financial incentives provide families with other important tangible support during the holiday season."
Lathan spoke at a press conference Friday to announce the Springfield-Greene County Health Department's Finish Strong 417 Winter Vaccine events, a partnership with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks and Springfield Public Schools.
Walk-ins are welcome but appointments are encouraged for anyone needing a first or second dose or a booster.
The events are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 20 and Dec. 11.
The events will be held simultaneously at two locations: Williams Elementary School, 2205 W. Kearney St., and the health department's temporary vaccination center, 1425 E. Battlefield Road.
Katie Towns, director of the health department, said 52 percent of county residents age 12 and older have received the vaccine.
She said the goal is for individuals to get their first shot Nov. 20 and return for a second shot Dec. 11.
"With the recent approval of the Pfizer vaccine for ages 5-11, we are excited to continue collaborating with our community to protect our kids," she said.
The health department has administered more than 300 pediatric vaccine doses so far. "That number will grow significantly with the supply of vaccine that we received again this morning," she said.
Towns said there has been a jump in COVID-19 cases among children age 5-17 and adults age 21-30 recently.
"Parents, it's their turn to get vaccinated and to be protected from the ill effects of COVID-19," she said. "If you have questions, we encourage you to reach out to your child's pediatrician or to give us a call."
Ashley Fleming, program coordinator for Community Foundation of the Ozarks, said a grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation allows the nonprofit to expand vaccination efforts.
"We're going to be able to offer an opportunity for people receiving first or second doses to win exciting prizes including family season passes to Silver Dollar City and Whitewater," she said. "We've got Nintendo Switches, iPads, bikes, giant Lego sets, an outdoor playset and many, many more."
Towns said the focus of the upcoming events is to get families vaccinated in time for the holidays, so they can celebrate more safely.
"We still have a significant population that is not vaccinated," she said. "There may be some natural immunity that people are carrying, if they had COVID this summer and they are recovered. But the immunity does wane and it wanes faster than the immunity that you develop from the vaccine."
The school district does not track how many students or employees are vaccinated — unless it is self-reported — but Lathan said the goal is to lift the mask mandate, in effect since August, by mid-January.
She has previously said the delay will allow families time to get their children vaccinated if they choose.
"The expansion of vaccine eligibility opens the door for us to move forward toward a return to normal operations in SPS," she said.
Lathan added: "Lifting of the masking mandate will occur after students return from winter break as COVID-19 cases allow."
For more information on COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccination opportunities, visit vaccine417.com or call the COVID-19 Call Center at 417-874-1211.
Claudette Riley is the education reporter for the News-Leader. Email news tips to email@example.com.