The Porterville City Council went through its Hamlet moment at its August 17 meeting. One shot or two, that is the question.

At its August 17 meeting the Porterville City Council approved a pilot program in which the city provided $100 gift cards to those who received their first COVID-19 vaccine shot at the free KJUG concert at Centennial Park last Thursday.

The council approved providing $100 gift cards to local businesses for people to receive their first shot at the concert so it could review the outcome in deciding how to move forward when it comes to encouraging people to be vaccinated.

Tulare County Health and Human Services on Monday reported Tulare County has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state as 39 percent of those who are eligible have been fully vaccinated.

Sierra View Medical Center and Imperial Ambulance provided the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine at the concert. The $100 gift cards worked to encourage people to receive their first shot as 74 people at the concert took advantage of the incentive and were vaccinated.

That was a far higher number than at National Night Out on August 3 when Sierra View and Imperial Ambulance provided vaccines, with no incentives. Twenty-four people were vaccinated at the event.

And after the favorable response last Thursday, the city, Sierra View and Imperial Ambulance are again offering the $100 gift cards to be vaccinated.

The $100 gift cards for local businesses will be give to those who receive the first or second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the Community Vaccination Clinic during what's being called Porterville's Vaccine Round-Up on Friday, August 27. The gift cards will be offered from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday.

All those who are 12 and older are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine. Walk-ins will be welcome and immigration status doesn't matter.

The Pfizer vaccine has receive full authorization from the FDA for ages 16 and older and emergency authorization for those 12 and older.

And of course to be fully vaccinated people must receive two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, a point made by City Council member Milt Stowe.

“I just think we'll be wasting a gift card if they don't come back to get the second shot,” said Stowe before the council took action to go ahead and offer the $100 gift card to local businesses to receive the first shot last Thursday. The council voted 5-0 to approve last Thursday's pilot program.

Stowe originally stated he felt the $100 gift card should only be given after the second shot. But Stowe and Mayor Monte Reyes said they could also see the side in which providing an incentive for people to receive the first shot was better than them continuing to be completely unvaccinated.

City council member Lawana Tate suggested the city could provide a $50 gift card for the first shot and then another $50 gift card for the second shot. But Stowe said then there could be the chance someone could say they got their $50 gift card for the first shot and not receive the second shot.

“I could go either way,” said Reyes about whether to split the incentive to $50 gift cards after each shot or provide $100 gift card after the second shot.

Regardless, all those at the August 17 meeting agreed $100 was the incentive that was needed no matter how it was given as opposed to just a $50 incentive.

The idea of providing the $100 gift cards to local businesses is two-fold, to encourage people to become vaccinated and to stimulate the local economy.

Funding for the gift cards is being provided by the American Rescue Plan. The city is receiving $19.8 million from the American Rescue Plan and the City Council has identified five areas to be stressed as far as the use of the funds: Addressing the homelessness issue; upgrading the city's infrastructure and technology in areas such as roads and broadband; addressing the city's water needs; addressing public health and public safety such as providing vaccines; and assisting small businesses, with an emphasis on restaurants.

City Manager John Lollis said an emphasis on the gift card program could be place on helping businesses, but other small businesses could be helped as well. Reyes added among the other small businesses hit hard by the pandemic that could be assisted are personal service businesses such as hair salons.

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