With COVID-19 breakthrough infections on the rise, New York City is offering a cash incentive to people who get their vaccine booster shot before New Year's.
The city announced Tuesday morning that it would pay $100 cash to anyone who gets a COVID-19 booster at a city-run vaccine site between now and December 31.
Mayor Bill de Blasio called it "by far the biggest booster incentive program in the United States of America" and expressed optimism that the program will make the city safer amid the year-end increase in coronavirus infections.
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City health experts expect the Omicron variant wave to intensify over the next few weeks.
As of Tuesday morning the rolling case weekly average is up nearly 123 percent over the averages for the previous four weeks. Hospitalizations are up 12 percent, but the mayor underscored that the vast majority of new COVID-related hospitalizations are among unvaccinated people.
The mayor said the city cannot withstand more economic shutdowns and residents need to "work together" in the coming weeks to slow the spread. "Everyone who has not been vaccinated, it's time," he said. "Everyone who has not gotten that booster, it's time."
Early research has shown Omicron is as much as 70 percent more transmissible than prior variants of the COVID-19 virus, according to infectious disease expert Dr. Bruce Farber of Northwell Health. Those findings bear out in the rising number of COVID-19 infections worldwide.
Data from Moderna and Pfizer show that their two-dose vaccine series offers modest protection against the Omicron variant. In both cases, however, the booster shot dramatically increases the level of protection against severe illness.