OGDEN — While Utah lingers near the bottom for COVID-19 vaccination rates in the U.S., Ogden City is incentivizing its employees to roll up their sleeves and get their shots.
Ogden Chief Administrative Officer Mark Johnson said the city is offering a few perks for its employees who get fully vaccinated. First, Johnson said, Ogden employees are allowed to attend vaccination appointments while they’re on the clock for the city, at a time of their choosing. Next, city employees who produce documentation showing they’ve been fully vaccinated will receive a bonus four hours of vacation time.
Johnson said proof of vaccine appointments will also come with a slight reduction in insurance premiums paid by city employees.
“We figure this is going to cost us less in the long run,” Johnson said Thursday. “If someone happens to get COVID-19 and they’re sick enough to have to go to the doctor or go to the hospital, that’s expensive to our insurance plan. Also, you factor in the sick leave that could add up. But really more than anything, we kind of felt like it’s our responsibility to do what we can to help get more people vaccinated.”
According to the Utah Department of Health, all Utahns ages 16 and older can now get Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, and those 18 and older can get either the Pfizer or Moderna shots. The health department says there have been about 1.8 million total vaccine doses administered in Utah so far and some 742,000 Utahns are fully vaccinated, or about 31% percent of the state’s population.
But data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that those numbers put Utah in the bottom fourth for vaccination rates among all U.S. states. According to the CDC, for every 100,000 residents, Utah currently has 55,656 vaccine doses administered. Just 12 states have lower vaccination rates than Utah.
The CDC says incentive programs like Ogden City’s can help vaccine confidence grow, where workers who may at first be hesitant to get the vaccine become more confident after seeing coworkers get shots.
While many organizations across the U.S. have begun to offer vaccination incentive programs, Johnson said the city’s plan was developed internally to best fit the city’s workforce. Vaccinations among Ogden employees are not required, but Johnson said the incentive should be seen as a form of encouragement from the institution.
“We think the best way to go about it is to offer a carrot, not a stick,” he said. “This certainly isn’t a requirement, but it is encouragement and there’s a pretty big difference between those two things.”