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KC groups offer COVID-19 vaccine incentives as experts warn of delta variant

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Posted at 9:40 PM, Jun 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-30 22:40:51-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo — The best chance to combat COVID-19 hotspots is increasing vaccinations, according to health experts. And with many Kansas City metro residents still on the fence, some community organizations are offering incentives at free vaccination sites.

The Village Initiative, a nonprofit that provides support services such as addiction counseling, employment assistance and support groups, for formerly incarcerated people, is vaccinating patrons every Wednesday during food distribution.

Chanelle McKinley, program director at The Village Initiative, said they wanted to do their part to help with vaccination rates.

“It’s an incentive, but it’s also serving the needs for the vaccinations and still providing food for families that need it," McKinley said.

The nonprofit, according to McKinley, is located in an area of Wyandotte County that is often underserved, so they are partnering with Vibrant Health and the county’s health department to utilize their location for access.

“We wanted to do our part in the community to let people know this is a place you can come to to get your needs met for the vaccine,” McKinley said. “Around this area, you have a lot of people who’ve been here for years — a lot of elderly people not having transportation… Our population that we serve are returning citizens.”

McKinley said she hopes her and her staff can break the myths and instill trust in the vaccines, but to convince those on the fence, accessibility and education must be provided.

On the other side of the state line, people trickled into Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday afternoon. The Royals, Price Chopper and Blue KC teamed up as part of MLB’s Vaccinate at the Plate initiative.

They are offering fans the opportunity to receive their vaccine, as well as the chance to get two ticket vouchers for a regular 2021 season game. They also will be able to purchase up to eight additional tickets at 50% off.

“Any incentives that we can provide to get folks to come up and get vaccinated is an advantage,” Tenagashaw Tiruneh, Heart to Heart International program director, said, “and the Royals graciously provided some tickets.”

One of those lucky takers was Alekos Alvarado, who had been hesitant to get vaccinated until now. A leg injury also forced him to be homebound longer than he had hoped. Once regaining more of his mobility, he was ready to roll up his sleeves.

“The doctors are smarter than we are," Alvarado said. "Science says something for itself. It’s not gonna kill you – do it anyway. It’s for everybody else’s sake.”

Carmen Bradshaw with Blue KC said only about 39% of eligible people in Missouri are vaccinated. In Kansas, that number is 42%.

Kansas City-area health experts are feeling a sense of urgency as they warn our next wave could be even more dangerous than ones before. Hospitals are treating other common illnesses again, which means there will not be enough capacity of staffing to take in COVID-19 patients like in 202.

Bradshaw said any incentive to encourage a higher turnout is worth trying as the threat of the new delta variant rises.

“Regardless of where they get it, we would like to reward, because it's not only affecting their health, but everybody else’s health,” Bradshaw said.

Frank Thompson, deputy director of the Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department, said the new delta variant is hitting the 18 to 39 age group the hardest. Other experts also reminded people who have already recovered from the virus that vaccinations are a lot stronger than the antibodies that people might have developed.