Boosting Covid-19 Vaccinations with $1 million Prizes, Free Crawfish, Hunting Licenses and More

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Connecting state and local government leaders

Along with businesses, state and local governments are offering a growing variety of perks to get residents hesitant about the shots to roll up their sleeves.

As the quest for communities to get Americans vaccinated continues, and the supply of vaccines outnumbers the demand, states and cities are coming up with creative ways to get people inoculated. 

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, on Wednesday, announced that the state would run a sweepstakes where people who have received at least one shot would be eligible for a $1 million dollar prize. Elsewhere, governments and businesses are offering a growing number of perks to draw people into receiving a Covid-19 vaccine shot. Everything from beer to cash to game tickets is being used as incentives.

For example, West Virginia is offering a $100 savings bond for people who decide to get a shot, while New Orleans gave away a pound of free crawfish with each Covid vaccine at this event. In Washington, D.C. there was an event held at The Kennedy Center that offered “a shot and a beer” for anyone age 21 and older with no appointment needed.

State and company partnerships have also been in the works. Maine has been teaming up with businesses to provide vaccines with an initiative named Your Shot to Get Outdoors. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services will be purchasing 5,000 tickets, licenses and passes. The perks include licenses for fishing and hunting, a L.L. Bean gift card and a Maine Wildlife Park pass. 

The New York Mets and Yankees will offer tickets for people to get vaccinated and create separate sections in their stadiums for vaccinated fans. The plan was announced by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and was encouraged by the state and the two baseball clubs. The National Football League is also getting in on the action, offering 50 Super Bowl tickets to fans who share their stories of why they wanted to get vaccinated.

In Ohio, DeWine said the cash giveaway program would kick off on May 26 and continue for five weeks, with the winner each week receiving a $1 million payout. Money for the initiative will come from the state's existing allotment of federal coronavirus relief funds, the governor said. To be eligible for the cash, people need to be Ohio residents, at least 18 years-old and they must have received a dose of the vaccine prior to the drawing.

"I know that some may say, 'DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money.' But truly, the real waste at this point in the pandemic -- when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it -- is a life lost to COVID-19," the Republican governor said on Twitter.

Meanwhile, in western New York, The Buffalo News reported that a one-day free beer-for-a-vaccination event resulted in more vaccinations than all of those injected at Erie County first-dose clinics during the week leading up to the event. Erie County Emergency Services worked with Resurgence Brewery in Buffalo to give out the shots. 

Cash incentives have been, perhaps, the most straightforward option. In Detroit, people can get a $50 prepaid debit card for driving someone to a vaccination site through the city’s Good Neighbor program.

Maryland is incentivizing vaccinations with $100 payments to state employees who elect to get a coronavirus vaccine. 

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan explained in a statement, "Incentives like this are another way to reinforce the importance of getting vaccinated," while encouraging businesses throughout Maryland to offer incentives to their workers as well. 

Six state governors recently met with President Biden to discuss vaccination programs across the country.

This story was updated with information about the Ohio program.

Brent Woodie is an associate editor at Route Fifty.

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