A program that began on Oct. 1, and ended on Dec. 31, tried to increase the vaccination rate among Casper city employees by paying people to get vaccinated using CARES act funding.

The program had an estimated cost of $124,168, and provided people on the city's payroll $250 to get vaccinated, an additional $100 for each spouse or dependent that gets vaccinated after the program began, and $50 if someone got a third shot or booster.

Over the course of the program, the vaccination rate among employees of the city of Casper increased from 15% to 49%, with the city paying out a total of $95,050.

The original goal for the program was to get 65% of city employees vaccinated.

This mirrors a similar trend in the state, where vaccination rates have gone from 48.51% of the population with at least one dose on Oct. 1 to 55.85% of the population with at least one dose of the vaccine on Dec. 30.

All told, the city paid out to 275 full-time employees, 69 non-full-time employees, 21 dependents, and 139 for booster shots, all of which were given to employees who had already been vaccinated before the program began.

Following the program implementation on Oct. 1, 33 employees reported being fully vaccinated and received the money.

Sworn police officers currently have the lowest vaccination rate at 35%, followed by sworn firefighters at 46%, and general full-time and non-full-time employees at 52%.

Since the city started tracking COVID-19 cases in March 2020, the police department has had the highest number of reported positive employees at 66.

All of these numbers however are based on what employees reported to the city, so it is possible more people are vaccinated than what was reported, but it is unclear what the difference is.

​Tracey Belser, support services director with the city of Casper, said she is disappointed more people didn't get vaccinated but appreciates those that did.

"I'm disappointed that it didn't achieve higher," Belser said. "Looking at 49%, that's not even 50%, and so yes it's disappointing because we thought that incentive, that's the whole idea of having the incentive was to try and keep our employees safe so that we could continue servicing the public. In that regard, it moved the needle a little bit, but not as much as we would have liked...I'm happy with the people that did move forward with it."

Belser said it's possible that because of an emergency Occupational Health and Safety Administration rule, employees may be required to be vaccinated regardless, though the rule is still making its way through the courts.

At the time that the city proposed the policy, some council members were for it while others spoke out against it, with the incentive passing 6-2.

Councilmember Jai-Ayla Quest said the program could be helpful towards alleviating the burden faced by healthcare workers in overcrowded hospitals.

Councilmember Bruce Knell said he believed the vaccine incentive won't get many new people vaccinated, and that he doesn't want the city to implement more restrictive programs in the future.

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Vaccinations for COVID-19 began being administered in the U.S. on Dec. 14, 2020. The quick rollout came a little more than a year after the virus was first identified in November 2019. The impressive speed with which vaccines were developed has also left a lot of people with a lot of questions. The questions range from the practical—how will I get vaccinated?—to the scientific—how do these vaccines even work?

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