Dallas County

Debate Over Vaccine Incentives in Dallas County

Dallas County plans vaccination push at the State Fair of Texas

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Dallas County Commissioners heard discouraging news Tuesday about a surge in COVID-19 infection for children between five and 13 years old,

“Those are disturbing trends that we’ve been seeing and it does coincide with the opening of the schools,” Dallas County Health Director Dr. Philip Huang said.

At the same time, Huang offered encouraging news about a slower rate of emergency room visits and hospitalization for adults, but said it is too soon to declare victory.

“You can see some flattening, plateauing hopefully from that, but we’ll see any impact from the latest Labor Day weekend activities,” Health Director Dr. Philip Huang said.

County Commissioner Elba Garcia was pleased to hear that the number of vaccinated adults continues to rise.

“People are starting to get the importance of the vaccination and the reluctance to get vaccinated is going down,” she said. “We need to incentivize people. What is in it for me other than being vaccinated?”

Commissioners approved a plan that includes $25 Walmart gift cards for shots at county-sponsored vaccination events or $20 worth of State Fair of Texas coupons for shots received at the fair.

Huang said the fair coupon incentives will be limited to Dallas County residents.

Commissioner John Wiley Price said he has watched pop-up vaccine clinics run by the county at events like the Jazz Festival that produced very few vaccinations.

He questioned the benefit of devoting resources to vaccinations at the fair.

“You don't go to the fair to get a vaccine and $20 is not going to be an incentive,” Price said.

Dallas County plans to offer shots at a booth near Big Tex during the fair. Unlike last year when the Fair Midway was only a drive-through event, State Fair of Texas officials expect the big crowds will be back.

“They expect 100,000 people a day at the fair. Some of those people are repeaters, but a lot of those people are new people each day,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said.

Doctor Huang said the fair plan is an example of efforts being taken to get shots into arms.       

“We're trying to go where the people are and where there are masses. Even if you get a small percentage, then you get large numbers,” Huang said.

Around 500 people a day received shots at recent Saturday vaccination events at Fair Park. 

It’s a fraction of the thousands who lined up when mass vaccination began but Huang said the effort has been worth it.

“We’re trying multiple strategies,” Huang said.

Drive through parking lot vaccination will not be available at Fair Park during the State Fair of Texas as the county operates the vaccination booth inside the fair.

“It's time to be publicized. We're going to be there. Where we going to be, how we going to do it,” Garcia said. “We're going to have to be very good at telling people, ‘Hey, you won't be sick in one hour if you're going to ride a coaster.’”

Tuesday figures still show 90% of COVID-19 cases are unvaccinated people.

“So, as we’ve been saying, this is essentially a preventable situation that we’re seeing with the severe illness and the hospitalizations and the deaths,” Dr. Huang said.

He said around 1.4 million eligible people in Dallas County have not received COVID-19 vaccinations.

Tarrant County Tuesday reported increases in both adult and child infection.

Huang said a combination of vaccination and greater mask-wearing explains the slight advantage in Dallas County.

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