RICHMOND, Va. -- As more people become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine under Virginia's Phase 1b rollout, some companies and organizations have announced they will offer incentives to encourage employees to get vaccinated.
The grocery chain Lidl announced it would offer an extra $200 to employees who get the vaccine.
Director of Communications, William Harwood, said with the company's health care program, the vaccine itself comes at no cost.
But Harwood said the company wanted to make it as easy as possible for employees to protect themselves from the virus.
"You may have children that you need childcare, or you may have commuting expenses, we want to make sure that 100% of our team that wants to get the vaccine is able to get the vaccine," said Harwood. "And we're going to continue to work to blow down barriers to that to make that as easy as possible. Because we're all in this together."
Harwood said in a survey that went out to Lidl employees, eight out of ten said they wanted to get the vaccine as soon as it was available.
"The team has been working so hard, you know, we have six stores in the Richmond area and every day throughout this whole year, we've been working," said Harwood. "The team has been working hard to serve the communities to put together a safe and amazing shopping experience."
In addition to the $200 extra pay, Harwood said the company planned to accommodate employee schedules for vaccine appointments and would continue to work with local officials to ensure workers are a priority for vaccine distribution.
In the meantime, the Virginia Department of Corrections also announced it would offer incentives to inmates who chose to get vaccinated.
In a release, a spokesperson said inmates who got the vaccine would receive free email stamps, telephone credits, and a care package filled with snacks and other items.
“We want all staff and inmates who want the COVID-19 vaccine to get their inoculations as soon as possible,” said Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) Director Harold Clarke. “This effort is important to all in the VADOC community – our staff, inmates, and the community outside the walls, where our staff and inmates’ families live. We hope this campaign leads to better health in VADOC facilities and in the Commonwealth itself.”
Virginia vaccine shortage may not improve until March
Smaller-than-expected vaccine deliveries from the federal government have caused frustration and confusion and limited states’ ability to attack the COVID-19 outbreak that has killed over 400,000 Americans. Over the past few days, authorities in California, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida and Hawaii warned that their supplies were running out.
Virginia, for example, received just 105,000 of the over 300,000 requested COVID-19 vaccine doses.
That has led to supply issues across the state, according to Dr. Danny Avula, the Richmond-Henrico Health Director tasked with managing statewide vaccination rollout.
Avula said the supply issue would not likely improve until March when new vaccines are expected to be approved.
"We're going to have to be patient, as we get through 1B, we're going to work really hard to focus on our most vulnerable -- the elderly and those with underlying conditions," Avula said. "And, as well, at the same time, ensure that we create opportunities for folks in that essential worker/1B to get vaccinated. But, given the supply demands we're facing it is going to be a couple of months."
Currently, the state is averaging just under 20,000 doses a day.
Avula said Virginia has the capacity for 40,000, but the supply of the vaccine coming into the state is the issue.
"What we've heard is that we can anticipate, we can expect that what we're getting right now is what we're likely going to get through February," Avula said.