May 28, 2021 -- As COVID-19 vaccination rates slow in the U.S., companies and states are stepping up to offer a variety of incentives to encourage people to get their shots, including cash lotteries, flights, and date nights, according to Axios.
The various giveaways have been criticized by some, though health experts have said incentives can work for those who haven’t cited a particular personal reason for not getting vaccinated.
“Offering some of these benefits is a way to make the vaccine more appealing in the here and now because we’ve given someone a tangible reason to get vaccinated right now,” Emily Largent, PhD, a medical ethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told Axios.
This month, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced a lottery for five residents to receive $1 million each, as well as drawings for full-ride college scholarships. Nearly 2.8 million Ohioans registered for the lottery, Axios reported, and the state announced the first winners this week.
Following Ohio’s example, Maryland announced it will hold 40 daily drawings for $40,000 each and a $400,000 Fourth of July jackpot. New York will also give away 50 4-year scholarships to any public college or university in the state for those ages 12-17 who get vaccinated by July 7, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday during a news briefing.
On Thursday, Minnesota announced a “Your Shot to Summer” incentive program, according to CBS News. Residents who receive their first vaccine dose by June 30 will be among 100,000 winners eligible to choose from nine prizes, including amusement park tickets, state park permits, fishing licenses, and gift cards.
California is the latest state to join the lottery list, announcing $116.5 million in prizes to encourage more people to get inoculated by June 15, according to The Associated Press. Gov. Gavin Newsom said 10 Californians will win $1.5 million each, which is the largest single award offered in any state so far. Another 30 people will win $50,000 each, and the next 2 million people who get shots will receive $50 gift cards, Newsom said Thursday.
Companies have joined the giveaway effort as well. In March, Krispy Kreme announced that vaccinated people can receive one glazed doughnut per day if they show their vaccination card. United Airlines is offering a year of free travel to five “grand prize” winners and 30 roundtrip flights to 30 winners throughout June.
On Thursday, CVS Health announced its #OneStepCloser sweepstakes will begin on June 1, which will include more than 1,000 prizes during the next 6 weeks. The list includes $5,000 and $500 giveaways for family reunions, 7-day cruises through Norwegian Cruise Line, vacation packages to Bermuda, a VIP trip to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles, and gift cards for dates on the Hinge dating app.
Kroger also announced a Community Immunity $5 Million Giveaway on Thursday, which will include five $1 million payouts and free groceries for a year for 50 people.
More companies and states announced their giveaway programs this week after the White House pledged to fund incentives to meet President Joe Biden’s goal of getting 70% of U.S. adults to receive at least one shot by July 4. The Treasury Department of Treasury released guidance on Tuesday that explains how states can use federal funds from the American Rescue Plan to encourage people to get vaccinated, including lotteries, cash prizes, and other giveaways, according to NBC News.
About 62% of the adult population has received at least one vaccine dose, according to the latest CDC tally updated on Thursday, and nearly 51% of adults are considered fully vaccinated. About half of the entire U.S. population has received a shot.
“Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has unlocked a secret,” Andy Slavitt, the White House senior adviser for COVID-19 response, said Tuesday during a news briefing.
“People do care about getting vaccinated, but it turns out they also have other things they care about,” he said. “Some of those things might encourage people to think about what might otherwise be a lower priority.”