Political leaders in the United States are resorting to desperate measures to convince more Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
U.S. President Joe Biden is aiming to have enough of the population vaccinated for the country to begin returning to normal by July 4. Yet the nation overall is administering fewer doses per capita than its peak just a month ago, due to a combination of access issues and vaccine hesitancy.
Unlike Canada, where private companies have been left to give away perks, U.S. officials are the ones getting into the creative spirit, offering everything from free beer to a weekly $1 million prize draw to drive up vaccination rates.
Here’s what some Americans could receive in exchange for getting inoculated.
Dropping U.S. vaccination rates create challenges for herd immunity
Ohio to give $1 million per week
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday topped all other incentives to date by announcing a $1 million prize draw.
DeWine said five Ohio residents would win the money in once-a-week drawings for adults who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. The prize money will come from federal pandemic relief funds.
“I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money,’” the governor said on Twitter.
“But truly, the real waste at this point in the pandemic — when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it — is a life lost to COVID-19.”
Nearly 42 per cent of Ohio residents have received their first vaccine dose to date, according to the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, while 36 per cent have received their second dose. Both numbers are below the current national average.
$100 for Maryland state employees
State employees in Maryland will receive $100 once they are fully vaccinated with two doses, Gov. Larry Hogan announced at the beginning of May.
“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 in a statement.
Maryland has one of the highest vaccination rates in the U.S., with 52 per cent of the population having received at least one dose, while 40 per cent are fully vaccinated.
West Virginia, which has one of the lowest rates with 37 per cent of residents at least partially vaccinated, is offering $100 bonds to young people if they get the vaccine.
New York offers baseball tickets, free transit
New Yorkers who get vaccinated at local ballparks will receive a free ticket to a New York Yankees or New York Mets game, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week.
“If you get a vaccination, they will give you a free ticket to the game,” Cuomo said at a press briefing. “We call that a New York home run.”
This week, New Yorkers who get vaccinated at select subway stations in New York City will receive a seven-day MetroCard or one-way Long Island Rail Road tickets.
Free tickets for New York Yankees, Mets fans who get COVID-19 vaccine at the stadium: Gov. Cuomo
The state, where 50 per cent of the population has received at least one dose to date, is racing to reopen by May 19, with New York City promising to lift most major restrictions in June. Cuomo has also announced that Broadway shows will begin again in September, with tickets going on sale this week.
Several businesses in New York City are offering perks to people who can prove they are fully vaccinated, including free donuts and cheesecake.
‘Shot and a Beer’ in New Jersey, Connecticut
The New Jersey governor’s office announced last week that residents who show proof of at least one vaccine dose can get a free beer at one of 12 participating local breweries.
Gov. Phil Murphy said the program is part of a larger initiative to offer vaccinations at popular tourist spots and mass-gathering sites in order to step up vaccinations. The state has administered at least one shot to 55 per cent of the population.
“We are putting into overdrive our work to hit our initial target of 4.7 million vaccinated New Jerseyans by June 30th,” Murphy said.
Connecticut has announced a similar program, but expanded it to include dozens of restaurants and bars across the state who will give a free drink to vaccinated patrons who also purchase food. The program lasts until the end of May.
Roughly 58 per cent of Connecticut residents have received at least one vaccine dose, while 46 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Maine’s ‘Shot to Get Outdoors’
Maine officials launched the “Your Shot to Get Outdoors” incentive program on Tuesday, with the state offering free fishing and hunting licences, park passes and other perks to vaccinated adults.
“Whether you’re an angler or a hunter, a baseball fan or a racing fan, or someone who just all-around enjoys being outside, now is a great time to protect yourself from COVID-19 and take to the outdoors,” Gov. Janet Mills said in a statement.
Maine’s vaccination rate is already high, with nearly 58 per cent of the population at least partially vaccinated.
Free transportation across U.S.
Biden on Tuesday announced the administration has partnered with Uber and Lyft to offer free rides to and from vaccination sites for all Americans.
The program will last until July 4, when Biden is hoping at least 70 per cent of Americans will have been vaccinated.
As of Wednesday, over 46 per cent of Americans have been at least partially inoculated, while 35 per cent have received both doses.
Biden sets new COVID-19 vaccine goal, aims to have 70% American adults inoculated by July 4
Will it work?
A recent survey experiment by the University of California Los Angeles’ Covid-19 Health and Politics Project found that incentives, particularly cash payments, could cut vaccine hesitancy by as much as one third.
The survey found 34 per cent of unvaccinated respondents would get the vaccine if they received $100 in return. Nearly the same number said the same if they got $50, while the number dropped to 28 per cent when only $25 was offered.
Nearly 15 per cent more people who responded to the survey were also keen to get vaccinated when told it would mean they could ditch masks and social distancing measures, compared to being told those measures would remain.
A U.S. Census Bureau survey released last week found close to 20 per cent of adults either definitely or probably won’t get vaccinated or are unsure if they will.
Devon Greyson, an assistant professor in health communication at the University of Massachusetts, said in an earlier interview with Global News that it’s still possible that number could be reduced, though admitted it will take work.
“We don’t need every single person to be vaccinated. We just need most people to be vaccinated. So I don’t think it’s insurmountable,” she said.
“(The U.S. is) shifting away from the rationing phase of vaccine rollout and into improving access and addressing hesitancy. And that’s going to take building relationships and trust … which is harder and will possibly require getting creative.”
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.