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Cities, states are experimenting with incentives for vaccinations

States and cities are experimenting with offering incentives and privileges for residents to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as concerns have come over the slowdown in vaccinations across the United States

Officials are addressing initiatives such as giving vaccine recipients payments via savings bonds, free drinks or gift cards to motivate Americans to get their COVID-19 shots. Experts in public health and psychology said these programs have the potential to get more people willing to get the vaccine and that incentives are worth trying to close the country’s gap in vaccinations.

This week, West Virginia committed to giving those aged 16 to 35 who get the vaccine $ 1

00 in savings bonds to increase the state’s vaccination rate. Gov. Jim Justice (R) reported Monday that 52 percent of the eligible state population has received at least one dose, noting that the cost would be “so low” compared to what the state has spent and continues to spend on the pandemic.

Connecticut plans to take a different approach to launching its #CTDrinksOnUs campaign, which entitles vaccine recipients to a free drink when purchasing food between May 19 and 31 at participating locations.

Max Reiss, communications director for Connecticut government Ned Lamont (D), said the state’s beverage program emerged when officials and the restaurant industry brainstormed how to achieve “herd immunity” – a point where the majority of the population is immune to the virus.

The idea for the program was not “directly related” to the slowdown in vaccinations seen at the state and nationally, Reiss said.

When asked if the drinking incentive had the ability to get the state to a flock immunity point, he replied, “We do not think it hurts.”

“If there’s an added bonus that when you go to the restaurant, you can have a drink or a beer or a glass of wine or a soda, we think it’s a nice symbol that you can enjoy,” he said. “And it shows that if you’ve been vaccinated, you can do all these things safely.”

City and county governments are also exploring incentives to increase vaccinations, with Chicago working on two programs where fully vaccinated people will have special access to summer events and special offers for salon and barbershop services. On Wednesday, Harris County, Texas, approved up to $ 250,000 for use in gift cards, events and other incentives for vaccinated people, the Houston Chronicle reported.

As of Monday, Detroit is offering $ 50 prepaid debit cards to anyone who drives another person to get their vaccination as long as they pre-register. Deputy Mayor Conrad Mallett said officials through the program hope that trusted voices within the community will be inspired to help other members decide to get the COVID-19 shot and therefore raise Detroit’s vaccination rates.

“By pushing past our inability to control and win the argument on social media, we really had to be more inventive about how we could get attention from the bigger, bigger community,” he said.

Detroit officials decided to give the incentive to those who give their “time and energy” to help others get vaccinated instead of paying directly out of concern for “ethics.”

“Getting vaccinated is an important decision,” Mallett said. “And we would not try to muddy that decision-making process by trying to encourage people to do what we think is right, but pay them to do it.”

The push for incentives comes as the average number of vaccines administered daily in the United States has fallen in recent days, which experts have attributed to a declining need for vaccines after enthusiastic recipients have already received their shots.

The U.S. peaked at the seven-day average of daily vaccinations on April 13 by 3.38 million, but that number has since dropped to 2.63 million from Thursday, according to Our World in Data.

Overall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 55.4 percent of American adults have received at least one dose, and 39 percent are considered fully vaccinated, meaning that much of the population is still particularly susceptible to getting the virus.

William Schaffner, professor of infectious diseases and preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said it is important to vaccinate more of the country’s population because it will “significantly reduce” the spread of COVID-19 and the effects of variants.

“Anything we can do to provide incentives to get more of these people vaccinated, I think is a good thing,” he said. “Whether these incentives work, we will have to wait and see. I’m sure they will work with some people. There is no doubt about it, but whether they can really help us turn the tide is still to be seen. ”

These state and local governments are taking a page out of some corporate playbooks, including Krispy Kreme, which is offering a free donut every day in 2021 to Americans proving they got their shots.

Experts said research shows that incentives can be effective in influencing health behaviors, with Noel Brewer, a professor of health behaviors at the University of North Carolina, saying incentives are expected to increase vaccinations by approx. 8 percent.

“This idea of ​​letting people choose and giving freedom of choice could be quite appealing to people on the right and left, so this seems like a tasty approach,” Brewer said.

This week in Michigan, Gov. Gretchen WhitmerGretchen WhitmerCities, States Experiment on Vaccination Incentives Occupational Health: FDA Reveals Plan to Ban Menthol Cigarettes | Joe Rogan clarifies vaccine comments Whitmer links light COVID-19 restrictions to vaccination rates in Michigan MORE (D) also revealed a reopening plan linking loosening COVID-19 restrictions with increased vaccination rates. According to the plan, when the state documents that 70 percent of the eligible population received at least one dose, its orders for masks and restrictions for public and private gatherings would be dropped.

Brewer said incentives are stronger when there is “a clear contingency between a person’s behavior and the reward,” so Michigan should expect to see “a weaker effect or perhaps no effect” compared to a direct incentive.

Austin Baldwin, an associate professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University, said mandates can generally be “very effective”, but when it comes to vaccinations, those who are resistant or hesitant may not respond well to vaccine needs if perceived as ” Threatening. “

“At least in the current context, incentives can be a kind of more effective approach, because incentives at least still value, on a psychological level, the autonomy, and people can feel that they are making the decision on their own,” Baldwin said.

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