Republican gubernatorial hopeful Lee Zeldin is not a fan of New York's use of prizes like lottery tickets or the chance to win college tuition money to induce vaccine participation.
"I don't believe we should be giving out these million-dollar scholarship or some other rewards," Zeldin, a Long Island congressman, told reporters during a stop in Rensselaer near Albany on Thursday afternoon. "I just don't believe that's the right path forward."
Instead, the government's best role going forward for the remainder of the COVID-19 pandemic should be to provide a path forward =to quickly returning back to a pre-pandemic life, Zeldin said.
"The biggest thing government can do is letting New Yorkers, letting Americans, understand, appreciate and receive a life that is a return to normal as fast as possible," he said, while also pointing to congressional efforts that led to the development and testing of the vaccine last year.
His answers on Thursday provide some insights into his views on how pandemic policy should move forward in New York, a state devastated by the coronavirus, but also one that has seen skyrocketing unemployment yet to return to levels seen in February 2020.
Zeldin himself is fully vaccinated.
Over the last several days, Zeldin has called for mask requirements for children in schools to be loosened as warmer weather takes hold in buildings across the state and more people are vaccinated.
New York has moved to strip many pandemic-related restrictions over the last month as restaurants begin to fill again and more people attend sporting events with proof of vaccination.
Zeldin panned the use of so-called vaccine state-supported "passports" like the Excelsior app to gain entry to public spaces once again. And while prizes to encourage vaccinations is not the best way to get more shots in arms, Zeldin pointed to word-of-mouth as an effective means of some hesitant people to get their shots.
"They wanted to talk to people that they trust who have gotten vaccinated to ask what their experience was like," Zeldin said. "They wanted to make sure there weren't any side effects that weren't yet known."