These days you can get free doughnuts, a beer on the house, tickets to an amusement park, a no-cost hunting license or cold, hard cash if you get a COVID-19 vaccination.
President Biden is doubling down on his call to get 70 percent of Americans at least partially vaccinated by July 4. To get there, the White House is partnering with businesses and organizations to incentivize people to get the shots, with additional freebies that include childcare, gift cards and a chance at free flights.
States are doing their part, too: One of the most debated — and successful — incentives is Ohio’s Vax-a-Million campaign, which allows vaccinated adults to enter a drawing for one of five $1 million awards, or for residents between 12 and 17 years old, one of five four-year scholarships to an Ohio state school, including room and board, tuition and books. An Associated Press analysis determined that vaccinations in the state were up 33 percent after the vaccine lottery was announced.
Carl Hunnel, 60, the city editor for the Richland Source news organization based in Mansfield, Ohio, already has been vaccinated but says he’ll be signing up for the lottery. “I’ve already got the shot, so if they say go to this website and fill this out ... I’d be dumb not to,” he says.
Tangible encouragements are seen as just the nudge some reluctant vaccine takers need.
Emily Largent, an assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania, says using diverse incentives — ranging from free food to cash and gift cards — will encourage people with different motivations to get vaccinated. The offers may be particularly helpful for younger people or those without preexisting conditions who are less concerned about the public health benefits of vaccinations.
"The variety is probably good, just like how everybody wants something different at a smorgasbord,” Largent says. “We give people more options and hopefully encourage more people to come along.”
Some won't be swayed by freebies, particularly those who are wary of vaccines, she says: “There are a lot of reasons why people aren't getting vaccinated, and incentives will not help with all of those reasons."
For those who want to go all in and get the most out of their vaccinations, here's some of what's being offered:
Many companies are paying their employees in some form or fashion, from paid time off to gift cards or cash.