Cash, gift cards, free beer: Possible incentives for skeptics to get COVID vaccines

The Biden administration announced Tuesday that its new goal is to get 60% of Americans at least partially vaccinated by July 4. The shift is an acknowledgement that the government needs to adjust its approach to convince those who might be hesitant to get their shots. Nationally, vaccine appointments have dropped by 30% since a peak in demand in mid-April. 

New research from UCLA suggests that offering incentives could help get more shots into weary arms. It’s a similar approach that businesses, cities, and states are taking. 

Those incentives can include cash, gift cards, and even free beer, says Lynn Vavreck, a professor of American politics at UCLA. She says these can be gentle nudges that can push folks who are on the fence.

This is also the natural next phase of the vaccination course, she adds.

“That first phase included a lot of people who were eager to get vaccinated to protect their own health, but also because they wanted to promote the public good. And we've worked through all of those eager folks. Now we're entering this different phase where we have a lot of people for whom maybe this is just less important to them. They don't think of this as a threat to their health. Some may be very hesitant [and] not really trust the government's motives.”

It also helps to remind holdouts that vaccines can be a way to resume public life, Vavreck says. 

“Actually relaxing these requirements and then reminding people of that relaxation … also increased people's willingness to go get vaccinated. Everyone's eager to get back to normal.”