Coronavirus pandemic

Milam County has only seen about 50 children receive the COVID-19 vaccination, but residents now have a monetary incentive to get their youngsters inoculated.

Parents or guardians will receive a check — for $250 per child — after they get their children fully vaccinated.

Milam County Judge Steve Young announced plans for the new incentive program after the Commissioners Court gave its approval Tuesday. The program will be available for all children ages 12 to 17 who are residents of the county and have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“It’s a big deal for us, it’s a huge deal for us,” Young said. “When I realized that we were going to get some money I wanted to something to get our vaccinations up. And the one thing that we could do is vaccinate the kids.”

Milam County has had 1,460 COVID-19 cases with 48 deaths.

Young said he was proud that his fellow commissioners approved the program unanimously — setting aside $600,000 for the estimated 2,400 children ages 12 to 17 in the county.

Money for the program comes from American Rescue Plan Act funds the county received.

Young said the county received $4.8 million from the act, which is just over a quarter of the county’s annual budget of about $16 million. He said doing this program was expensive but also worth it to encourage people to get children vaccinated.

As more children get vaccinated, Young said it will help protect schools, teachers and staff members stay safe while keeping the children in in-person classes and other activities.

To distribute the money, the county plans to write checks to the parent or custodial guardian of each child after showing proof of being fully vaccinated.

Young said only 50 of the estimated 2,400 children have received both doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

 “So we will make it retroactive to include those 50 and then we will go forward,” Young said. “So all the kids that fall into that category will get the money so that avoids this issue of ‘Oh well, you should have given me money.’”

Young said the county currently has two types of people who have not gotten the vaccine — those who never will and those who are still on the fence. He said he didn’t think this incentive would ever sway the people on the fence and that is why it targets children.

Young said he also hopes that parents bringing their children to get vaccinated will get the shot themselves if they haven’t done so yet.

“If I am mom or dad and got a couple of kids that are in the right age group, and you say that you are going to give me a couple hundred dollars to get me kids vaccinated, I might run down there to get the money and pay for the school clothes and school supplies,” Young said. “And, oh by the way, how is it good enough for the kids and not for me, so maybe we get mom and dad, too. That is the thinking behind that strategy.”

Along with the new plan, the county also plans to host a children’s vaccination clinic from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday at the Milam County Health Department, 209 S. Houston Ave. in Cameron. To learn more, call 254-697-7000.