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Baton Rouge vs. New Orleans: To raise low COVID vaccine rates, mayors announce intercity challenge

The mayors of southeast Louisiana's two largest cities are hoping a bit of friendly competition will motivate citizens of their cities to get the vaccine for COVID-19 and boost lagging vaccination rates.

Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome and New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced a challenge Thursday to see which city can have the highest vaccination rate over the next 30 days. There's nothing at stake -- except for city pride and "the health and well-being of our citizens," Broome said in a minute-and-20-second video posted on social media by both mayors.

Roughly 40% of the eligible population in Baton Rouge is fully inoculated, Broome said, seemingly putting the city at a disadvantage when compared to the nearly 60% in New Orleans that Cantrell reported.

But the daily vaccinations reported in both cities has slowed significantly, similar to a trend seen across much of the country. In an attempt to jolt the slowing rate of inoculations, officials across the county have announced challenges and prizes for receiving the vaccine.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the state's "Shot at a Million" contest last month, which will give away several pots of $100,000, scholarships and a grand prize of $1 million.

Scientists say at least 70% of the citizens in a region need to be vaccinated in order to achieve "herd immunity" against COVID-19, meaning there aren't enough vulnerable people for an infectious disease to spread through a community.

"We are moving right ahead, so I'm up for that challenge," Cantrell told Broome. "Let's do it, because the health of our people is our priority, it's always been."

The mayors gave some simple instructions for the citizens of both cities to participate: get the vaccine, register for the "Shot at a Million" contest and encourage friends and family members to get the vaccine.

"Let's see what New Orleans and Baton Rouge can do," Broome said to Cantrell, high-fiving her New Orleans counterpart as the video ended.


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