Scoring a dose of the coronavirus vaccine in America, once the equivalent of a winning lottery ticket, has started to look like something else: a clearance sale.
So much so that some states and cities, struggling to fill nominations as demand for vaccines dwindle, are turning to a range of not-so-subtle incentives to get shot by more Americans.
New Jersey is offering a “shot and a beer” to residents who receive their first dose of vaccine in May and visit participating breweries across the state. Detroit gives out $ 50 prepaid cards to anyone who drives a resident to a vaccination site. And to encourage state employees to get vaccinated, Maryland is offering a payment of $ 100, Gov. Larry Hogan announced on Monday.
“Incentives like this are another way to reinforce the importance of getting vaccinated, and we strongly encourage businesses across the state to consider offering incentives to their workers as well,” Hogan said. , a Republican, in a statement. “These vaccines are safe and effective, they are free and easily available with or without an appointment.”
The strategy comes as public health experts recognize that the United States is unlikely to achieve herd immunity, at which point enough Americans have been vaccinated or infected to attenuate the virus.
It’s also a reminder of people’s reluctance to get the vaccine and the challenge leaders face in convincing them that it is safe.
But will seductions work?
“As humans, we often respond better to carrots than to sticks,” said Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician at Brown University in Rhode Island, who specializes in public health research, on Monday.
Dr Ranney said vaccination campaigns are most effective when they use language that does not imply a sense of duty or obligation to be vaccinated. Saying there is a “vaccine just for you” is a better approach, said Dr Ranney, who expressed concern over the lingering reluctance to get vaccinated.
But Arthur Caplan, professor of medical ethics at the Grossman School of Medicine at New York University, questioned the effectiveness of incentive programs in an interview on Monday.
“I think the resistance and reluctance runs deeper than you’re going to be able to resolve with a bounty of $ 100 or something,” said Dr. Caplan.
In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, said Monday that residents 21 and older who received at least one dose of a vaccine in May were eligible for a free beer if they presented their vaccination card at one of the many participating breweries. The program, introduced in collaboration with the Brewers Guild of New Jersey, naturally goes by the nickname “a drink and a beer”.
Connecticut has a similar program, in which residents who have received at least one dose of a vaccine can get a free drink – alcoholic or non-alcoholic – at participating restaurants across the state for part of May.
In Detroit, the city announced last week that it would offer $ 50 prepaid gift cards to anyone who drives a resident to vaccination sites run by the city’s health department.
There is no limit to what people can earn by driving Detroit residents for the shot, but those earning $ 600 or more will need to complete a W-9 form, city officials said.
In one of the most publicized plans to increase vaccination rates, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, a Democrat, said last week that the state would give $ 100 savings bonds to young people under 16. at 35 who get a Covid-19. vaccine. On Monday, Mr Justice said he was considering other incentives amid the difficulties of trying to put together a savings bond program, WVNews reported.
In Los Angeles, a member of city council and a multi-faith cultural arts center gave away a free bag of goods to everyone who visited their free vaccination site on Friday.
Manny Fernandez contributed reporting.