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Vaccinated people receive a sticker after receiving a vaccine at the COVID-19 vaccination site inside of Lakeside Shopping Center in Metairie, La., Friday, May 21, 2021. Lakeside, in partnership with Jefferson Parish and Ochsner Health, opened the COVID-19 vaccination site on Monday, in the former Naturalizer space. By the end of the day Thursday, 266 people received a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine in the location. (Photo by Sophia Germer, NOLA.com, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

Beyond the protection it offers against COVID-19, vaccinations in Louisiana now come with several new perks: free admission to state parks and historic sites and a complimentary drink at certain restaurants and bars.

Gov. John Bel Edwards unveiled the incentives Thursday as part of a month-long push to juice the state's lagging vaccination campaign, which last week administered the fewest number of first doses since the roll-out began.

The freebies are the state's first attempt at enticing the unvaccinated with rewards for rolling up their sleeves — and they won't be the last. Edwards said to "stay tuned for more incentives in the works," a likely nod to a vaccine lottery with cash prizes for those who get the life-saving jab.

"But please don't wait for the next incentive to be offered to get your shot," Edwards added. "We're still in a pandemic with people contracting the virus every day."

Anyone who has been vaccinated against COVID-19 will get free admission until July 31 to Louisiana's three dozen state parks and historical sites. Proof of a COVID-19 vaccination can be provided with either a vaccination card or through documentation available for free on the LA Wallet app.

The free drink incentive is only available to those vaccinated within the last seven days, Edwards said. A full list of participating bars and restaurants is forthcoming, though a spokesperson for the governor said to look for signage indicating the deal. 

Edwards' announcement comes as President Joe Biden renews his own push to reach a goal of getting at least 70% of adults partially vaccinated by Independence Day. On Wednesday, Biden declared June a "month of action" and announced that Anheuser-Busch has said it will "buy Americans 21+ a round of beer" if the Fourth of July goal is met. 

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Louisiana remains at the bottom of the pack in terms of vaccination rates, with just under 36 percent of its population – or 1.6 million residents – having received at least one dose. That includes 46 percent of adults, a number that nationally hovers around 63 percent. 

The state recently opened up vaccine eligibility to adolescents aged 12 to 15, though that had little impact on the vaccination rate. Just 29,807 first doses were administered last week, the lowest batch of new inoculations since January, when vaccines first became available to the public. 

Edwards has said previously he's interested in joining other states in establishing a vaccine lottery, but offered no new details Thursday. An Associated Press analysis showed vaccinations jumped 33% after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine unveiled the state's "Vax-a-Million" lottery, which offered $1 million prizes for adults or college scholarships for children. 

Carla Brown, a hospice nurse who lost her husband to COVID-19 after bringing the deadly disease home from work, also joined Edwards Thursday to urge the public to get vaccinated. She's gone door-to-door to promote the vaccines and educate as many people as possible that the virus is not a hoax. She has a personal goal of inoculating 2,000 people before the Fourth of July. 

"This virus is real and it crosses all boundaries," Brown said. "I'm pleading with every American. Please get the vaccine. You must understand this vaccine was made to save us."

Staff Writer Jeff Adelson contributed to this report. 


Email Blake Paterson at bpaterson@theadvocate.com and follow him on Twitter @blakepater