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New Mexico tries carrot-stick approach to boost vaccination

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham last week described the carrot-and-stick approach to immunizations against COVID-19 as “a little incentive, a little mandate.” (Morgan Lee/Associated Press file)

SANTA FE – The state of New Mexico moved forward Monday with a carrot-and-stick approach to immunizations against COVID-19 with a renewed $100 payout to newly vaccinated residents.

That $100 offer remains in effect through the end of August. The strategy was pioneered by New Mexico for several days in June, with about 25,000 eligible participants. The state’s $5 million sweepstakes prize for one vaccinated resident is scheduled to be awarded on Saturday.

President Joe Biden recommends that more states use cash payments to increase the pace of vaccination, as health authorities grapple with the more-contagious delta variant.

Starting on Tuesday, New Mexico is requiring that vaccine-eligible state workers either get the shot or get tested each week for infection.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham last week described the strategy as “a little incentive, a little mandate.”

“That’s the sort of movement, I think, that will get us closer and closer to the goals that we need in order to protect ourselves adequately from delta and any other mutated version of this terrible virus," she told a news conference.

New Mexico was an early standout in deploying the vaccine, and immunization rates exceed 90% among eligible residents in Los Alamos County.

Immunization rates still lag in many rural and politically conservative counties, including the oil-producing region that abuts West Texas. Fewer than one-third of eligible residents in Roosevelt County are fully vaccinated.

The state continues to emphasize the availability of coronavirus testing. And it is prodding people to voluntarily participate in a crowdsourcing initiative that uses smartphones to track close encounters with people who later test positive for COVID-19.

Across the nation, a growing number of businesses are requiring their employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, alarmed by the rise of the delta variant and frustrated that vaccination rates in the U.S. have plateaued.

Others are stopping short of a mandate while taking steps to make it more onerous for workers to remain unvaccinated, requiring them to take regular COVID tests or denying them certain privileges reserved only for the vaccinated.