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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

New Vaccination Scholarships Incentives Announced By Ohio Gov. DeWine

Ohio Department of Health

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced a new round of vaccination incentive programs Thursday, although it is not clear if other incentives offered earlier this year increased vaccination rates. 

Younger Ohioans could receive up to $100,000 as part of a new scholarship vaccination incentive from the Ohio Department of Health. 

The incentive, called the Vax to School program, is a new scholarship drawing open to any Ohioan age 12 to 25 who receives a COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Mike DeWine announced in a press conference Thursday. 

Five $100,000 scholarships will be offered, in addition to 50 $10,000 scholarships. The money can be used for a number of career or college opportunities, including tuition or job training, DeWine said. 

More details on what the scholarships can be used for and how to sign up for the drawing will be announced next week, he added. 

“Whatever program they want to get into, this scholarship will pay for it. You can use that money …  to, really, any kind of advancement,” he said. “Learn any kind of trade, whatever they want to do. It’s kind of wide open.” 

Examples could include a 2- or 4-year undergraduate degree program, trade school, or other post-secondary education, he added. 

The new incentive comes as officials are concerned about rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in school-age children.

“[Health officials] are used to dealing with problems and when I see them upset and I see them very concerned, I get concerned too and so it's worth it,” DeWine said. “We've got to throw the football. We've got to try to make something happen. We've got to move our numbers up."

Since Aug. 15, more than 42,000 COVID-19 cases have been reported in kids age five to 17 in Ohio's schools, DeWine said. 

Two schools are partially remote right now due to the uptick in cases, he said, and children's hospitals are reporting their highest numbers of hospitalizations since the pandemic began. 

There is no statewide mask mandate for schools. As of now, 61 percent of kids are required to wear masks in the state's K-12 schools, DeWine said. 

"The way to keep kids in school, frankly, is to get more of them vaccinated," he said.  

Currently, 46 percent of Ohioans age 12 to 25 are vaccinated, DeWine said, but noted there are some communities in the state where the percentage for that age group is much lower.  

In comparison, statewide, 84 percent of Ohioans age 65 and over are vaccinated, he added. 

Ohioans age 25 and under who already received a COVID-19 vaccine before the new incentive was announced are already eligible for the drawing, he said. 

The Pfizer vaccine is currently authorized for individuals age 12 and up. Authorization of the vaccine for kids age five to 11 is not expected until later this fall, health officials said. 

Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, director of the Ohio Department of Health, said thousands of children in the state have already received the vaccine and no adverse effects or safety concerns have been reported. 

Do Vaccine Incentives Work?

The state introduced the first round of incentives earlier this year when vaccination rates stalled in early May. The million-dollar vaccine lottery, Vax-a-Million, and scholarships for high school students initially led to a major increase in vaccination rates in the state. The initial bump, however, appeared to level off as the lottery continued for several weeks. 

While researchers have debated whether the Vax-A-Million program was actually effective, DeWine said the program did encourage many Ohioans to take the shot. 

“We think it’s somewhere between 100 to 130,000 extra people [got vaccinated]. We’ll never know for sure,” he said. “We think it was well worth the money.” 

The Vax-To-School incentive, like Vax-A-Million, will be funded by federal coronavirus relief funds the state received, DeWine said. 

Children, Adults Encouraged To Get Flu Vaccinations 

Vanderhoff said it is also important for Ohioans to get flu vaccinations ahead of the upcoming influenza season.  

At least one person in Ohio has been diagnosed with a strain of swine flu, he added. 

“The patient wasn’t hospitalized and has completely recovered from their illness,” Vanderhoff said. 

The patient was properly isolated and did not transmit the illness to others, he added. 
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