After more than two months of trying to woo hesitant Americans to get COVID-19 vaccines with cash, free beer and other prizes, health data and experts suggest those incentives failed to move the needle forward appreciably in many cases, and in some had no impact at all.
“A small proportion responds to the incentives, but they are definitely not a panacea,” Dr. Kevin Schulman, a professor of medicine and economics at Stanford University’s School of Medicine and Graduate School of Business, told ABC News of the national vaccine situation.
There was some initial thought that lotteries, in particular, would be effective given their appeal to some people who were also hesitant to get vaccines, experts told ABC News. But since incentives started widely being offered beginning on May 12, the number of first does given in the U.S. briefly increased but then tailed off.
The country did not meet President Biden’s goal of 70% of Americans getting one dose by July 4 and only 48% of the entire population has been fully vaccinated as of July 13, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The situation is more urgent in some states, like Arkansas and Louisiana, where vaccinations levels are below 50% despite well-funded incentive programs.
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Schulman and health experts are recommending governors and health officials refocus their efforts on outreach rather than incentivizing if they want to avoid another wave of cases, hospitalization, and deaths brought upon by low vaccination numbers.
Ohio, the first state to offer a lottery to vaccinated residents, was seen as an early test case. Gov. Mike DeWine used federal stimulus money to offer a $1 million prize and one full college scholarship to teen entrants once a week or five weeks.