New Bedford residents of any age can now receive a $20 Dunkin’ gift card if they get their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine at one of the city’s clinics.

Mayor John Mitchell announced the incentive will be available through the end of June at the Andrea McCoy Recreation Center, New Bedford Health Department mobile clinics and homebound appointments, the Southcoast Health mobile van, and the Greater New Bedford Community Health Center.

New Bedford is in the bottom third of Massachusetts communities when it comes to vaccination rates. Forty percent of New Bedford residents have received their first dose, compared to 66 percent statewide. 

“We're trying to focus on the folks who are on the fence, the folks who are saying I'll get to it when I get to it,” said Damon Chaplin, New Bedford’s top public health official. “They haven't said no, but they're, you know, they aren’t actively looking for the vaccine.”

The strategy is modeled after other incentive programs taking hold across the country as health providers try to reach people who have yet to get the shot, even as access becomes widely available at places like supermarkets and community centers. In Rhode Island, several Dunkin’ locations have set up temporary clinics that offer free coffees for customers who receive the vaccine onsite.

Chaplin said vaccine hesitancy has become more prevalent among city residents since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for a brief pause on administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in April to study a rare type of blood clot. The vaccine has since been deemed safe by the CDC.

The mayor’s office said the city plans to pay for most of the gift cards using federal coronavirus relief funds. Another 300 gift cards were donated by a local Dunkin’ franchise.

Ben Berke is the South Coast Bureau Reporter for The Public’s Radio. He can be reached at bberke@thepublicsradio.org.