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NICHOLS HILLS, Okla. (KFOR) – City employees in Nichols Hills are getting an incentive package if they sign up to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We’d noticed that our participation was increasing if we did like a $50 incentive or, getting your blood pressure checked, going to the annual clinic, getting a flu shot,” Shane Pate, City Manager of Nichols Hills, told KFOR on Wednesday.

Pate said because of that, they decided to do something even greater to encourage city employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine, once it’s made available to them.

“We started talking to our employees about what would it…what are your concerns with the vaccine. There’s a lot of unknowns, a lot of misinformation out there,” Pate said. “If you’re on the fence, is there anything about whether to take the vaccine, is there anything that we could incentivize you to do to get that vaccine.”

Then at the end of December, city leaders sent out a memo to employees, offering the following incentive package:

  1. Financial Incentive: A $200 bonus incentive.
  2. Sick Leave Incentive: a. All sick leave used by employees in the calendar year 2020 for Covid-19 related illnesses or exposure is hereby credited back to such employees. b. From this day forward, if an employee receives the vaccine and either falls ill resulting from the vaccine, or falls ill with Covid-19, an employee may take up to two weeks of sick leave without it counting against their accrued sick leave. The City Manager reserves the right to extend this amount of sick leave credited to an employee on a case-by-case basis. If the vaccine is available but the employee does not take the vaccine and subsequently is exposed and must quarantine themselves or falls ill with Covid-19, use of sick leave for such purposes will be debited against the employee’s accrued sick leave bank. (Please note: The City reserves the right to rescind this benefit to any employee who abuses this sick leave policy and to further take disciplinary action up to and including termination.)
  3. Vacation Incentive: Employees that receive a Covid-19 vaccine will also be credited an additional 40 hours of vacation time (72 hours for fire department personnel working 24-hour work schedules), regardless of whether the employee has already accumulated the maximum accrual of vacation hours under City policy or union contract. This vacation incentive will be banked separately from normal vacation accruals and available for buy back as with any other vacation benefits under City policy or union agreement.”

“We don’t know exactly how many were on the fence. We know it was a sizable amount,” Pate said.

Now, he expects around 90 percent of employees to get the vaccine.

“$200, that’s not small in the big picture, but when you weigh the risk of just us having 72 employees, if we had an outbreak of COVID, that’s really going to put us in a bind,” Pate said. “We wanted to make sure that we weren’t punitive. We were more just encouraging people and respecting their right to make a decision about these things, but really strongly encouraging them to do that.”

Pate said so far, 77 percent of their first responders have received the vaccine and another 10 percent are waiting because they’ve had COVID-19 and still have the antibodies.

Continued Coronavirus Coverage