Tarrant County Commissioners Court considers vaccine incentive program

The Tarrant County Commissioners Court discussed the possibility of a vaccine incentive program Sept. 14. No decision has been made yet. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
The Tarrant County Commissioners Court discussed the possibility of a vaccine incentive program Sept. 14. No decision has been made yet. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

The Tarrant County Commissioners Court discussed the possibility of a vaccine incentive program Sept. 14. No decision has been made yet. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

The Tarrant County Commissioners Court discussed on Sept. 14 the possibility of a vaccine incentive program, and, after a presentation and discussion, there was no clear indication whether the program would be explored further.

The proposal comes as county staff say 56% of Tarrant County residents age 12 and older have been fully vaccinated.

With just two of the court’s commissioners outwardly in support of continuing to discuss the program, Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley told Tarrant County Administrator G.K. Maenius to bring the program back before the court if one more of the other three commissioners voiced support for further discussion.

Whitley had asked county staff on Sept. 7 to put together the memorandum on the possibility of such a program, one that took into account the incentive programs in other Texas counties, such as Harris and Dallas counties. Commissioners were presented with that memorandum Sept. 13. It was reviewed during Tuesday’s meeting.

The program outlined by county staff would include an incentive of $50-$100 in the form of a physical or digital gift card.

Whitley said he supports the idea of an incentive, noting the success other counties have had, but said the court would need to work out several details. Commissioner Roy Charles Brooks also expressed support for the program.

“I think that the only way we are going to get past this pandemic is to get shots in arms,” Brooks said. “We’ve got to get much higher than that [current vaccination rate], and if it requires incentives to get there, I’m prepared to try it.”

Commissioner Gary Fickes, whose Precinct 3 includes Grapevine, Colleyville, Southlake, Keller and parts of northern Fort Worth, said he does not support the program.

“I think paying them is not the way to do it,” Fickes said. “It’s just crazy.”

Commissioner Devan Allen said she is open to the discussion but is undecided, citing concerns over how eligible sites would be determined and whether $50 is enough to move the needle for vaccine-hesitant residents. She also cautioned that in spite of the urgency that spurred the idea, the court should do its diligence.

“I understand that we want to move forward quickly,” Allen said. “In rushing, we have made mistakes and not thoroughly vetted things as much as we need to.”

Commissioner J.D. Johnson did not indicate a position on the program.

County staff outlined a number of suggestions and considerations for the court, were it to go forward with such a program. Those suggestions included requiring that the incentive be available to any resident receiving a first or second dose at a Tarrant County Public Health vaccination site. Staff also recommended a window for the first run of the program, suggesting Oct. 15-31, and then reevaluating based on success.

Finally, staff suggested allocating $5 million for the first run of the program, enough for 100,000 vaccinations at $50 each, and further suggested that the funds for the first run of the program might come from Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (FRF) through the federal government.

The next time the program could be discussed would be the court’s Sept. 21 meeting.

Whitley responded to some skepticism about the program’s ability to move the needle among the county’s unvaccinated population. He cited not only the success Harris County has had—the memorandum cites a 706% increase in daily vaccination rates due to the program there, according to Harris County staff—but also the intent to persuade the hesitant and those who have procrastinated.

“They [Harris County] are having success getting not the folks who are anti-vaxxers—they’re not going to get it regardless—but the people that are sitting on the sidelines and for whatever reason haven’t chosen to go out and get it,” Whitley said. “That has seemed to be successful.”
By Steven Ryzewski
Steven Ryzewski is the editor for Community Impact Newspaper's Grapevine-Colleyville-Southlake and Keller-Roanoke-Northeast Fort Worth editions. Before joining Community Impact in 2021, he worked in hyperlocal journalism for nine years in Central Florida as an editor, sports editor and correspondent.


Dimassi's Mediterranean Buffet to open in Grapevine

Dimassi's offers halal and Mediterranean food options such as falafel, tabouli, hummus, lamb shank and mansaf.

The Texas Secretary of State's office has launched an audit of 2020 election results in four of Texas’ largest counties: Harris, Dallas, Tarrant and Collin. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Texas Secretary of State's office announces audit of 2020 election results in Dallas, Collin, Tarrant and Harris counties

In a statement released Sept. 23, the office said it anticipates the state Legislature will fund the process.

Kyle City Council voted 6-1 and approved the new citywide trail master plan that will utilize 2020 bond election funds for trails that will help connect Austin to San Antonio. (Courtesy Pexels)
CI Nation roundup: Perfect Game coming to Cedar Park; Kyle City Council approves trail master plan to connect Austin to San Antonio and more top stories

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Sept. 24.

wall of hanging guitars
Addison-based Tone Shop Guitars now serving Southlake community

Tone Shop Guitars is an independently owned guitar shop that sells a variety of guitar brands and accessories and also offers in-store repair services.

The West Grove mixed-use development will include about a 4-acre entertainment area called The Hub. (Rendering courtesy city of McKinney)
New mixed-use development planned for McKinney; Frisco raises water, sewer, solid waste rates; and more top news from DFW

Read the most popular business and community news from the past week from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Artists’ work will be available to view and buy, along with live entertainment, food and drinks at Art in the Square in Southlake. (Courtesy Art in the Square)
Art in the Square returns to Southlake this weekend, Sept. 24-26

The annual festival and community fundraiser highlights work from more than 150 artists and raises money for programs serving women, children and families in Northeast Tarrant County.

Several parents of New Caney ISD students spoke at the district's Sept. 20 board meetings about recent allegations that a student brought a firearm to Porter High School's Sept. 18 homecoming dance. NCISD Superintendent Matt Calvert stressed that no gunshots were fired at the event, and that the district is investigating the allegations. (Wesley Gardner/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI Nation roundup: Round Rock ISD trustees considered for censuring; New Caney ISD addresses allegations of student with gun at campus event and more top stories

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Sept. 23.

R&J's Bar and Grill held a soft opening earlier in September. (Sandra Sadek/Community Impact Newspaper)
R&J's Bar and Grill opens in former Lucy's Lot location in Grapevine

R&J's Bar and Grill in Grapevine offers a variety of menu items, such as burgers, tenders and seafood entrees, alongside a full bar.

Mikoto Ramen Bar & Sushi is now open on Southlake Boulevard. (Courtesy Mikoto Ramen Bar & Sushi)
Mikoto Ramen Bar & Sushi now open in Southlake

Mikoto Ramen Bar & Sushi offers 100% plant-based broth for its ramen and uses fresh fish for its sushi.

Chicken N Pickle will include a restaurant, sports bar and pickleball courts, and is expected to open in late 2022 in Grapevine. (Courtesy Chicken N Pickle)
Entertainment venue Chicken N Pickle to open in Grapevine in late 2022

The indoor/outdoor entertainment complex offering a restaurant, sports bar and pickleball courts is coming to the Delaney Vineyards property next year.

McKinney City Council considered design concepts for future wayfinding signs for the city Sept. 21. (Illustration courtesy city of McKinney)
McKinney eyes designs for wayfinding signs; Plano House of Comedy reschedules opening and more DFW-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.