New study & public health experts weigh in on effectiveness of vaccine incentives

COVID-19 vaccine vial and syringe
Posted at 5:38 PM, Jan 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-07 17:38:16-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Last year, cities, states, and even businesses tried to come up with creative ways to get people to roll up their sleeves for the COVID-19 vaccine. A new study is shedding light on how well some incentive programs worked.

In 2021, several states introduced lottery systems incentivizing people to get the COVID vaccine, offering a chance at cash prizes. A study out this week did not find evidence that vaccine lottery incentive programs in the US were associated with significantly increased COVID vaccination rates.

“I was a little surprised that it was as ineffective as it really was,” said Dr. Thomas Unnasch, a Distinguished USF Health professor.

Dr. Unnasch weighed in on if he thought incentivizing getting the vaccine was effective or not.

“I think it was pretty much clear that the carrot wasn’t really moving the mule very much,” said Unnasch.

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey released last month showed about half of unvaccinated adults say nothing will convince them to get the COVID vaccine.

“The one thing that does seem to move things along is using the stick,” said Unnasch. “Vaccine mandates, either employer vaccine mandates or the US federal mandates, or like what we’ve seen in France, where they have vaccine passports, basically which require you to show proof of vaccination before you can enter a restaurant or museum or club or anything where there are a lot of other people around indoors.”

Dr. Unnasch explained those seem to be successful in getting people to be vaccinated because people either don’t want to lose their job or put up with restrictions on their lives. He thinks it’s more important now for people to get vaccinated for others than it is for themselves.

“Us as a society, we have to kind of look out for each other, and I think to take care of your neighbor who’s elderly or immunocompromised I think is a fair thing to do to get vaccinated because even though you may have only minor symptoms, that person may end up in really serious trouble,” said Unnasch.