Doughety County government workers line up for shots, $300 bonuses

Dougherty County Administrator Michael McCoy, left, speaks with Albany Fire Department Chief Cedric Scott at the conclusion of a recent Dougherty County Commission meeting. The county began offering a $300 payment to employees who get a COVID vaccination a month ago.

ALBANY — If you pay them, they will come ... to a vaccination location. That’s the lesson learned by Dougherty County officials after instituting a cash incentive program to motivate employees to get protected from COVID-19.

Since initiating the program about a month ago, the county has seen the vaccination rate for employees increase from about 10 percent of the work force of 650 to nearly 50 percent. Employees who provide proof of full vaccination get $300 under the program.

“When we presented it to the board (Dougherty County Commission), we were around 68 fully vaccinated,” Dougherty County Administrator Michael McCoy said. “We had about 310 employees as of Aug. 27 that were eligible for the benefit. That puts us at about 47 percent, a huge increase.”

The commission approved the plan, and McCoy said he hopes it will help the Strive for 75 initiative, which seeks to have 75 percent of the county’s population vaccinated within 75 days, meet its goal.

“At the end of September we’ll have updated numbers, and I anticipate they’ll be even higher,” he said. “We want to reach 75 percent as an organization and countywide, and our incentive program is really helping in achieving that goal.”

Through August, the county had spent $1.1 million in testing and health care costs for employees sickened by the disease.

As of last week several county employees were in the hospital being treated for COVID-19.

“We know that’s going to go up, because we have a lot of folks getting treated and who are hospitalized,” McCoy said. “Unfortunately, we had a death. That was last month.

“When you do the math, it’s a lot more cost-effective to pay people to get vaccinated than to treat them. The majority of people who are expiring are unvaccinated.”

Ideally, McCoy said he would like to see 100 percent get vaccinated, but one at a time is still making an impact. The $195,000 in payouts that would result from every employee being vaccinated would pay for themselves.

“I can say we’re better off today than yesterday in terms of vaccinated employees,” he said. “If you save one, you’ve done well. We hope to save many, many more.”

The county also will host a communitywide vaccination clinic on Saturday morning outside the Albany Civic Center.

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