Covid-19 vaccine incentives: Others have tried free donuts, beers, and gift cards. Now Ohio is betting millions to improve vaccination rate

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The state will give millions of dollars to those vaccinated and full scholarships to vaccinated children through special lotteries.

In theory, yes, an investigation shows it. In a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 47% of people who say they want to ‘wait and see’ before being vaccinated said paid time off to get it would make them more likely to do so, and 39% said ‘a financial incentive of $ 200 from their employer would work.

Anecdotal evidence also suggests that incentives can be effective, depending on the type.

Jessy Patterson was in no rush to get the Covid-19 vaccine, she said. “I’m very lucky that I don’t have any underlying conditions and I’m only 36,” said Patterson, events and communications coordinator for the Department of Parks and Recreation in Acworth, Ga.

Then the city offered a $ 200 Walmart gift card to its employees who get vaccinated, and the offer comes with a time limit – get vaccinated before the end date or you won’t get. the gift card, Patterson said.

“It definitely allowed me to get it faster than if I wasn’t dragging my feet on it,” Patterson said.

And for Paterson’s employer, it made sense to offer that $ 200 gift card as an incentive to get the shot, city manager Brian Bulthuis said.

“If someone is vaccinated, they don’t get sick. It saves us money,” Bulthuis said, as they don’t have to take time off work.

Many other employers apparently came to the same decision, most of them at the start of the vaccination process.

Free time and cash as incentives

Some employers are offering paid time off for hourly workers who get vaccinated, including discount grocery chain Aldi (four hours), yogurt maker Chobani (three hours for each dose of vaccine) and Dollar General (four hours).

“It’s simple, fair and it’s the right thing to do”, Peter McGuinness, President and COO of Chobani, said on LinkedIn.
Others offer money directly. Bolthouse Farms employees receive a bonus of $ 500 if they present proof of vaccination, reported the Wall Street Journal. The company also organizes weekly vaccination clinics at its premises.
Discounted grocer Lidl offers an additional $ 200 in compensation, and JBS Foods offered a $ 100 bonus “for any member of the US team wishing to be vaccinated.”

Bulthuis estimates that around 60% of Acworth employees are vaccinated, and “maybe a third probably wouldn’t have” without the gift card bonus.

Health experts have said the country needs to achieve a vaccination rate of at least 70%, and possibly as high as 85%, to achieve herd immunity, when the spread of the coronavirus can be significantly reduced.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 46.4% of the population had received at least one injection of the vaccine and 35.4% were fully vaccinated. But the vaccination rate peaked at more than 3 million doses in April. Now the enthusiasm seems to be waning, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The percentage of people who say they will definitely not be vaccinated has remained unchanged from a previous survey at 13%, while the percentage of those who will only be vaccinated when needed has risen from 7% to 6%.

Ohio Lottery Plans

In the Ohio plan, the winners of five future lotteries will each win $ 1 million if they are vaccinated, DeWine said.

To qualify for the designs, residents of Ohio must be at least 18 years of age. For 12-17 year olds, separate draws will take place and the winner of each will receive a full scholarship, DeWine said.

“I know some of you are now shaking your heads and saying, ‘This Mike DeWine, he’s crazy! This million dollar drawing idea is a waste of money.’ But really, the real waste at at this stage of the pandemic – when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it – the real waste is life that is now being lost to COVID-19, ”DeWine said.

The lottery is designed as a “regret lottery,” which is more popular than the more common type, said George Loewenstein, professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University and co-director of its Center for Behavioral Decision Research. .

The participants do not decide to join, they are simply included in the drawing. If they win, but don’t meet the qualification – get vaccinated, in this case – they often regret.

“These types of lotteries are extremely popular, much more popular than traditional lotteries because people are so afraid of regret,” Loewenstein said.

“It’s very smart,” Loewenstein said, “both parts, the adult version and the kid version.”

Giving money can work against you

But financial incentives for vaccines in general can backfire, the professor said, because it sends the signal that “this is something you might not want to do for yourself without the money. which is offered “.

And in the case of West Virginia, which offers $ 100 savings bonds to residents between the ages of 16 and 35 who get vaccinated against Covid, “it doesn’t just wreak havoc in West Virginia,” said said Loewenstein. “In fact, he’s doing the most damage outside of West Virginia.”

People in other states will think, “It mustn’t be in my best interests to get the vaccine, and besides, I don’t even get $ 100,” Loewenstein said.

And people outside West Virginia may resist the vaccination, believing their state will make a similar offer to West Virginia, Loewenstein said.

Somehow, it seems like little things, like free beer, are enough to convince people.

Resurgence Brewing Company in Buffalo, New York, hosted a vaccination event last weekend, offering free beer to those vaccinated, and more people were vaccinated “than any of the other pop-up clinics in Erie County have come to. that week, “Ben Kestner, director of taproom operations at the brewery, told CNN.

President Joe Biden last week established a New goal for the nation: get at least 70% of all American adults vaccinated with at least one dose by July 4.

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