Fact Check: Are vaccine incentives for kids illegal?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — During the pandemic, we’ve seen all sorts of incentives for people to get vaccinated. Monroe County announced earlier this month kids five to 11 could get up to $100 in gift cards if they got their COVID-19 shots at a Rochester City School District clinic.

One viewer emailed us saying it’s illegal to do this.

She wrote us this message on Facebook:

"You created an article that discusses students getting gift cards in exchange for a vaccine jab. You could also write and publish an article on how it’s actually illegal to do this and publish the laws that pertain. Just thinking the Media plays a big role in informing American people of laws, and if you do a good balanced job state facts it would be a benefit to our nation."

She also included the definition of Bribery according to Cornell Law School:

"Bribery refers to the offering, giving, soliciting, or receiving of any item of value as a means of influencing the actions of an individual holding a public or legal duty. This type of action results in matters that should be handled objectively being handled in a manner best suiting the private interests of the decision maker. Bribery constitutes a crime and both the offeror and the recipient can be criminally charged."

News10NBC’s Nikki Rudd is checking the facts.

When it comes to COVID vaccinations one group is lagging behind: Five to 11 years olds. In New York, only about 35% of kids in that age group have received at least one shot.

To get more of these kids vaccinated Monroe County is offering gift cards. If you go to the vaccine clinic on Tuesday, Jan. 25 at School No. 8 (1180 St. Paul Street, Rochester, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.), the parent/guardian of the child will be given a $50 gift card for the first dose and another $50 gift card for the second one.

News10NBC has reported on all sorts of vaccine incentives from scholarships to ski passes, but what about straight-up cash for kids?

I went to a legal expert and asked, "Is this all legal?"

"Yes, it is perfectly legal," said Leslie Silva, a partner at Tully Rinckey PLLC. "Whether it’s children or adults, there were a number of incentives that adults could take advantage of when the vaccines were rolling out."

Silva said these are incentives, not bribery. I also asked if this incentive is any different since it’s targeted at younger kids.

"It’s important to remember that parents are making medical decisions for their children," Silva said. "If there is an incentive to that medical decision that’s perfectly legal, and if the child benefits from it in some way, that’s also perfectly legal."

So if you heard these vaccine incentives are illegal that is false.

Here are the remaining Rochester City School District vaccine clinic for kids five to 11:

  • Tuesday, Jan. 25 – School No. 8, 1180 St. Paul Street, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, Jan. 27 – School No. 50, 301 Seneca Avenue, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Walk-ins are welcome but appointments are encouraged. Click here to make an appointment online. You can also call the Monroe County COVID-19 Hotline at: 585-753-5555.

I checked with Monroe County officials, and they still have plenty of gift cards to hand out. Children five to 11 must be with a parent or guardian. you’ll get a $50 gift card for the first dose and another one for the second.