Milwaukee offers $100 gift cards to those who get first dose of COVID-19 vaccine

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The city of Milwaukee is offering a new incentive to get people to get their COVID-19 vaccine.

Starting Thursday, anyone ages five and up who gets their first COVID shot at one of the Milwaukee health department sites, will be eligible for a $100 gift card. There are a total of 1,000 gift cards to give away.

"Take advantage of this opportunity to protect your health, the health of our community, and earn some extra money," said Mayor Cavalier Johnson.

COVID numbers in Milwaukee remain in the extreme transmission category, though the number of positive cases and deaths is declining.

Still, a new strain of the Omicron variant, known as BA.2, is 1.5 times more transmissible than Omicron.

"Preliminary data coming out of countries that have seen a lot of BA.2, suggest it's similar to the original Omicron variant," said Dr. Ben Weston, chief health policy advisor for Milwaukee County. "That is less severe than delta, but of course we remember that even when the variant is less severe, that heightened transmissibility can lead to greater overall impact."

Vaccines and boosters provide strong protection against BA.2,  which is why local officials are pushing everyone to get vaccinated.

"Early data suggests the vaccine, especially when combined with the booster, and that's key, provides a high level of protection, about 70 percent protection against symptomatic illness," Dr. Weston said. "That's even higher than we had with the original Omicron strain. The benefit of vaccination is likely much higher in preventing hospitalization and death like we've seen with Omicron."

Right now, 56.5 percent of Milwaukee residents ages five and up have at least one dose of the vaccine. That means over 250,000 Milwaukee residents are eligible for this incentive.

The county is also offering free masks to the general public starting Tuesday.

You can get one at the Marshall Coggs Center, 1200 W. Vliet St, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.

There are 50,000 available and the county expects to run out by Friday.

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