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Harris County offering $100 for people to get their 1st COVID vaccine shot

The plan goes into effect immediately and runs through the end of the month. Here's what you need to know.

HOUSTON — Judge Lina Hidalgo says Harris County is "going big" in its efforts to get more people vaccinated by offering a $100 cash card payment to those getting their first shot.

The payments begin immediately and run through Aug. 31 at any Harris County Public Health site, both fixed and mobile.

“Our public hospitals are strained to their breaking point," the judge said at a Tuesday afternoon press conference, adding that families are suffering needlessly when there is a safe and effective vaccine widely available.

"We are going to every corner of the community as possible," said Hidalgo.

She says to get the cash card reward, there are no strings attached. It's free and easy, and no insurance is needed.

Where to get your COVID-19 shot and $100 payment in Houston area

You can find the current Harris County Public Health vaccine sites and register for an appointment here.

Judge Hidalgo says on any given day there are 10 county vaccine sites. You can walk-in or sign up in advance for an appointment.

LINK: Find Harris County vaccination sites; schedule an appointment

The cash card can be used anywhere, but the judge encouraged those who receive them to use them at local small businesses, the ones who need it the most during this pandemic.

“Think about your favorite neighborhood restaurant, your favorite boutique shop," the judge said. "Help out your community."

It's only for first shots

When asked, the judge said the $100 cash card offer is only for those getting their first-ever shots, not those who are fully vaccinated or waiting for their second shot.

She also noted that when people arrive at Harris County health sites, they'll have to answer certain questions, and there is a penalty for lying on government forms.

County officials will be running names through the state's database to make sure people who are already vaccinated don't double-dip.

Where the $100 payments are coming from

KHOU 11's Adam Bennett reported it is funded by $2 million that Commissioners Court recently approved from the American Rescue Plan.

Hidalgo is prepared to request more money from commissioners if the demand outstrips supply.

“Over the past several months, the Delta variant of COVID-19 has spread quickly across Harris County, straining hospital systems and disproportionately impacting unvaccinated residents. Over 98% of people currently hospitalized for COVID-19 in the Harris Health System have not been vaccinated,” stated Hidalgo’s office.

Vaccine incentives work, professor says

Rice University Professor Jing Zhou said there’s a history of vaccine incentive programs being successful. She pointed to a recent study done by UCLA.

“By in large, the $100 condition had the greatest net increase in terms of the percentage of people willing to get vaccinated,” Zhou said.

Highest COVID numbers yet across the Houston area

On Monday, KHOU 11 reported the Houston region hit its highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations since the beginning of pandemic. There were 2,977 patients in the nine-county trauma service region.

RELATED: Houston region hits highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations since beginning of pandemic

The trauma service area Q includes Austin, Colorado, Fort Bend, Harris, Matagorda, Montgomery, Walker, Waller and Wharton counties.

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