A shot in the arm could get someone a leg up for two tickets to any destination in the world, as the City of Columbia has teamed up with American Airlines on an initiative to get more people vaccinated against COVID-19.
Speaking from Columbia Metropolitan Airport Wednesday morning, Mayor Steve Benjamin shared details about the new effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Columbia is setting up vaccination sites where anyone who gets a shot will be entered into a lottery to win two tickets provided by American Airlines. The round-trip tickets will be in the first class section of any domestic flights, or in commercial class for international flights, mayor’s office spokesman Skot Garrick told The State.
The flight does not have to depart from Columbia Metropolitan Airport, American Airlines Regional Director of Government Affairs Tracy Montross said in an interview with The State.
“This is an incentive to motivate folks to get vaccinated and overcome vaccination hesitancy,” Montross said.
No deadline has been set for when participating in the lottery will end, but it’s expected to be in late August, Garrick said.
The first vaccination site to offer a sign-up for the lottery will be on Saturday at the Soda City Market in downtown Columbia.
“We’re in the process of scheduling more sites now, and more will become available,” Garrick said. “We want to offer as people as possible the chance to get vaccinated.”
Information on Columbia’s vaccination sites is available at the city’s website Resilient Columbia. The website will be continuously updated with more vaccination sites.
Benjamin originally mentioned the plan for the lottery Tuesday during a virtual meeting with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden.
“This is part of an ongoing initiative for people in the Midlands to get vaccinated,” Garrick said.
American Airlines recently held a similar lottery in Washington D.C., and has plans for more in Charlotte, Dallas, and other communities where there are nearby airports that are homes to their flights, according to Montross.
“In an effort to improve vaccination rates in the Southeast we reached out to a number of communities with the offer of one pair of tickets,” Montross said. “This was a great opportunity to celebrate our partnership with the Mayor’s Office, the City of Columbia, and Columbia Metropolitan Airport.”
About 42% of Richland County residents are fully vaccinated, while 49% have had at least the first of two shots, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
American Airlines is also working to ensure their customers well being with a number of COVID-19 safety protocols for their airplanes, according to Montross.
“We want to make the travel experience clean and safe, and our partners at (Columbia Metropolitan Airport) are doing a great job with that as well.
Although passengers using Columbia Metropolitan Airport for flights are not required to have a COVID-19 vaccine or test, masks and social distancing protocols are still “strongly encouraged,” airport officials said.
This is not the first incentive to motivate people to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Earlier in June, DHEC launched its “Shot and a Chaser” campaign in partnership with the South Carolina Brewers Guild.
The campaign, which is aimed at increasing vaccine uptake in young adults, will reward anyone who gets a COVID-19 shot at select breweries across the state with a free beer or soda, the agency said.