Free beer, pot and donuts. Savings bonds. A chance to win an off-road vehicle. Places in the U.S. are offering incentives to try to kickstart the nation’s slowed vaccination campaign and get Americans to roll up their sleeves.
These relatively small business promotions were accompanied by more serious and far-reaching attempts by officials in cities like Detroit, where they are offering $ 50 to people who drive others to vaccination sites. Chicago sends specially equipped buses to the neighborhood to deliver vaccines.
Public health officials say efforts are critical in reaching people who have not yet been vaccinated, whether because they are hesitant or because they have had difficulty making an appointment or getting to a vaccination site.
“This is how we put this pandemic in the rearview mirror and get on with our lives,” said Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky’s Public Health Commissioner.
In the meantime, further activities are being resumed in the USA as the number of cases is falling. Disneyland opens on Friday after being closed for over a year, while Indianapolis plans to welcome 135,000 viewers for the Indy 500 in late May. Nonetheless, rising hospital stays and case numbers in the Pacific Northwest caused Oregon’s governor to impose restrictions in several counties, and her counterpart in Washington was expected to follow suit.
Demand for vaccines has declined across the country – something health officials expected would happen if the most vulnerable and eager to get the shot had the opportunity. Now that most older Americans are fully vaccinated, the effort is entering a new phase.
“This will be much more of an intense floor game where we will need to focus on smaller events that are more tailored to the needs and concerns of focused communities,” said Stack.
Nationwide, 82% of people over 65 and more than half of all adults have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While vaccinations peaked in mid-April, averaging 3.2 million shots a day, the number had dropped to 2.5 million since last week, and some places are no longer asking the government for their full allotment.
The slowdown in the US is in stark contrast to the situation in many of the poorer corners of the world desperately seeking vaccines.
Demand has plummeted in the rugged forests of northeast Washington state, where Matt Schanz of the Northeast Tri County Health District doesn’t know what to try next.
76 percent of residents in Pend Oreille County and 78 percent in Ferry County remain unvaccinated, and a whopping 80 percent in Stevens County haven’t even had a shot, compared to a statewide average of 59 percent. On Wednesday, only 35 people in all three counties booked a first dose through the health department, after a high of 500 daily appointments a few weeks ago.
Schanz ticks off the previous efforts in the three districts in which he is the administrator of the health department: newspaper advertisements, signs and mailers that are sent with electricity bills. Drive-through vaccination stations on exhibition grounds and fire stations. A call center and online planning. Liaise with pastors, elected Republican leaders, employers in the timber industry, and an aluminum boat manufacturer. TV and radio interviews.
“Have we reached this point of saturation?” Asked Schanz. “How many people do we have who will be the tough no, and how many are the hesitant and the waiting people?”
The uncertainty about the vaccine is the biggest obstacle. He said, “People say,” Jesus, I don’t want to be a government experiment. “
Chicago officials are planning vaccination sites at festivals and block parties, and are working with barbershops and hair and nail salons to combine free services with vaccinations.
“The idea here is to bring the party, bring the vaccine and this really be a convenient way for people to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago health commissioner.
Several companies have announced that employees can take paid time off to get vaccinated. In Houston, 31-year-old Elissa Hanc works for one of them, 3 Men Movers.
Her employer began offering the benefit before President Joe Biden announced a small business tax credit to give paid time off to those who get vaccinated or recover from the side effects.
“I have a few friends who work where management doesn’t make getting the vaccine a priority,” Hanc said. “You have no doubt let me know how lucky I am to work where I work.”
Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, said employers should allow paid time off and other incentives are needed to encourage vaccinations. He pointed out West Virginia, which gives young adults who get their shot $ 100 savings bonds – and where only about 35% of people had received at least one dose by Wednesday.
“We also need health systems and universities to mandate vaccination – that no one can be employed without vaccination or on campus / in medical facilities,” Topol said in an email. He also said the nation needed to launch a “counter-offensive” against anti-vaccination websites and activists.
Other companies come up with marketing pitches.
Krispy Kreme offered a free donut each day that provided evidence of vaccination. A movie theater in Cleveland is delivering free popcorn through the end of this month.
Several marijuana dispensaries across the country dispense cannabis treats or free rolled joints. On April 20, marijuana advocates offered “joints for bumps” to encourage people to get vaccinated in New York City and Washington.
Some breweries across the country are offering “Shots and a Chase”.
In Alaska, which has traditionally had low confidence in vaccinations, Norton Sound Health Corp. with a hospital in Nome and 15 clinics across Western Alaska giving away prizes including airline tickets, money to buy an ATV, and $ 500 for groceries or fuel.