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The Lincoln County Commission announced Thursday that nearly 80 percent of county employees are vaccinated against COVID-19.

HAMLIN — The Lincoln County Commission said Thursday 39 eligible county employees took advantage of the previously approved COVID-19 vaccine incentive.

The commission approved a plan Sept. 2 that provided a $500 incentive to any county employee who was fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 31. Out of 50 eligible, 39 employees have claimed funds.

Commission President Josh Stowers brought forth the idea Sept. 2 after seeing a similar plan proposed by Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin.

“Essentially, it is a COVID-19 vaccine incentive,” Stowers said. “It’s essentially mirroring what is in Charleston. They have had legal review to make certain that they can use their recovery monies for this purpose since it’s strictly COVID related.”

Stowers said the cost if all 50 eligible county employees were vaccinated would have been approximately $28,000. Money for the incentive came from the county’s $3.96 million allocated federal American Rescue Plan funding, meant to help the county in its recovery from COVID-19.

“We don’t necessarily want to mandate, but we certainly want to encourage,” Stowers said.

Commissioner Charles Vance, who is also a medical practitioner in Lincoln County, has continually advocated for individuals in the county to take every precaution they can against COVID-19.

“Hopefully, getting our employees vaccinated will also encourage other institutions to get vaccinated,” Vance said. “I think that a lot of healthcare people are probably going to get vaccinated here soon, so even those who have been reluctant to do so, with approval from the FDA of the Pfizer vaccine — I don’t think there’s any question anymore of how safe it is.”

Stowers said having employees vaccinated is not only in the interest of public health, but also in keeping the county offices operating in the instance of a positive case.

Stowers said the vaccine incentive was the first of the county’s rescue funds to be distributed. He said the county has so far received half of its allotment.

HD Media reporter Nancy Peyton primarily covers news in Lincoln County.

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