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Baltimore Plans To Incentivize COVID-19 Vaccinations For City Employees

General Photo: Vaccine
Ariel Javellana/Flickr
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A vaccine vial and syringe. On Wednesday, Baltimore officials discussed plans to incentivize city employees for receiving COVID-19 vaccines.

Mayor Brandon Scott’s administration plans to offer incentives to city employees who receive COVID-19 vaccines and is discussing the possibility of requiring city employees to get vaccinated, officials said at a Wednesday morning hearing.

“Baltimore plans to incentivize vaccinations and track progress of city employees who are vaccinated, who voluntarily submit that vaccination status to us,” Chief Digital Officer Todd Carter told the City Council’s Health, Environment, and Technology Committee during a presentation.

Carter declined to answer specific questions about the program from Councilwoman Danielle McCray and deferred to Mayor Brandon Scott’s office, as did Interim Director & Chief Human Capital Officer Quinton Herbert.

“I don’t know if it’s appropriate for us to get ahead of the mayor and the senior staff,” Carter said.

Herbert said that the city has asked its labor workforce to voluntarily provide their vaccination status; he did not specify what percentage of workers have received shots but said that it mirrors that of the general city population. As of Wednesday, just over 65% of city residents aged 18 and up have received a first or single dose of the vaccine, while 58% are fully vaccinated, according to city data.

A spokesman for Mayor Scott did not immediately return a request for comment.

President Biden called on leaders of states and localities in July to encourage residents to get vaccinated through financial incentives. A study from UCLA found that a third of unvaccinated participants said a cash payment would increase their likeliness of getting a shot.

In May, Gov. Larry Hogan announced a $100 incentive for state employees who are fully vaccinated. To receive the money, state employees must give proof of vaccination to their human resources office, as well as agree to receive any CDC recommended booster vaccinations within 18 months. Those who received the incentive and refuse to receive a CDC recommended booster shot will be required to repay the state. Last week, the CDC officially recommended booster shots for immunocompromised people.

The state’s incentive is retroactive; employees who were fully vaccinated prior to the May announcement are eligible to receive the $100 payment.

Comptroller Bill Henry called on Scott earlier this summer to require city employees to receive vaccinations or be subject to weekly COVID-19 tests.

Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa told council members that the Scott administration has been having discussions about requiring city employees to get vaccinated. She referred further questions to Nina Themelis of the Mayor's Office of Government Relations, who declined to provide details.

Emily Sullivan is a city hall reporter at WYPR, where she covers all things Baltimore politics. She joined WYPR after reporting for NPR’s national airwaves. There, she was a reporter for NPR’s news desk, business desk and presidential conflicts of interest team. Sullivan won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for an investigation into a Trump golf course's finances alongside members of the Embedded team. She has also won awards from the Chesapeake Associated Press Broadcasters Association for her use of sound and feature stories. She has provided news analysis on 1A, The Takeaway, Here & Now and All Things Considered.