W.Va. opens portal for $100 prize for young vaccinated

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s governor debuted a new portal Thursday for vaccinated residents aged 16 to 35 to receive a $100 incentive.

Those in the age group who received all required doses of the vaccine can register at governor.wv.gov to get their prize of a $100 U.S. Treasury bond or a gift card of the same value. Gov. Jim Justice announced plans for the incentive program last month, and it will apply retroactively to people who already received the vaccine.

The state is aiming to boost its sluggish vaccination campaign with the prize and has also expanded clinics at schools and businesses. Justice has a goal of vaccinating at least 65% of residents aged 12 and over by June 20, when his statewide mask mandate will be fully lifted. A month out, 55% of those residents have received at least one dose.

“We’re going to be really close to the 65 on June the 20th if we keep on moving the way we’re going,” Justice said. The state has vaccinated nearly 82% of its senior citizens, 3 percentage points from hitting the governor’s target.

Fully vaccinated residents have been exempt from the indoor mask mandate since last Friday. The change came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance saying that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks indoors or out in most cases.

Across the state, 15 county school systems are holding clinics this week, Justice said. All eligible residents can walk up to get in line for a shot at the events. “We’ll vaccinate anyone if they come to these clinics,” the governor said.

There are about 78,000 children aged 12 to 15 years old, and the state wants to be able to vaccinate most of them.

The governor also said senior centers will fully reopen for visitors, although people not fully vaccinated will still need to wear a mask indoors. The state will release guidelines for safely reopening later Thursday.