Local, state leaders discuss potential COVID-19 vaccine monetary incentives

Local Coronavirus Coverage

SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – In a news conference Thursday, President Joe Biden urged state and local officials to offer a $100 cash incentive to those who receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable said even if the incentive is offered, he’s not sure if people will utilize it.

“We need to retain our individual responsibility. There’s certain things the state can’t do for you and certain things the feds can’t do for you,” Venable said. “I believe those people who are sold on the vaccine and feels like it works for them have taken it.”

Venable said that in his county less than 40% are vaccinated, and the county has seen over 300 deaths.

“I lost one of my favorite friends a few weeks ago because he didn’t take the vaccine and that really bothered me to go his funeral,” Venable said. “But, it was his individual decision and I’ll protect his right to do that.”

On Friday, Ballad Health released a statement on the potential of vaccine incentives.

We applaud efforts that encourage people to receive the vaccine, and we also urge people with questions to seek out reputable, trusted sources for medical information. Additionally, as we all work to make the shots easily accessible, Ballad Health will extend the hours of our community vaccination center in the Mall at Johnson City for this Saturday, July 31, from noon-4 p.m. during tax-free weekend.

Sen. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) said vaccinations should not be mandated but, instead, an individual choice. He chose to be vaccinated.

“We don’t believe there should be a mandate, and a lot of people have said, ‘well, that equates to you don’t like the vaccine,'” Lundberg said. “That’s absolutely not true.”

Lundberg said that he feels cash incentives won’t be helpful in Northeast Tennessee.

“If we were going to give cash incentives to anyone we would give them to the healthcare workers who put their lives on the line,” Lundberg said. “As far as incentives, I think for people to get the vaccination, I can’t think of anything more than their health and safety, not only for themselves but for their families and friends. That should be enough.”

“If the state suggests that, we’ll get together locally here with our Department of Health and our medical director and see if that’s something we want to do,” Venable said.

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