The US vaccination campaign has noticeably lost momentum in the past few weeks. Since then, mayors, governors and companies have offered incentives to ensure that as many people as possible decide in favor of the important corona vaccination. Not all are good ideas.
There is one thing that you cannot blame New York Mayor Bill de Blasio for: that he did not try everything to convince the people in his city of a corona vaccination. With a few french fries in his mouth, he wanted to make a vaccine dose palatable to undecided people in mid-May. “And then there is also a burger element?“, he asks, smacking his lips and somehow awkward.” And that works as breakfast too? If you find that appealing, just keep it in mind when you think about vaccination. “
Does that bring anything? Nora Szech conducts research at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) on the topics of market and morality. Since it has been clear that the corona pandemic can only be ended with vaccinations, she has also been concerned with the question of which means and incentives can help against vaccine skepticism. She doesn’t think a small gift like a free bag of french fries is wrong. “That feels better than if he put two euros in my hand,” she comments on the ntv podcast “Wieder was learned” about the short video clip of the smacking New York mayor.
The French fries offer is one of many that the USA is currently trying to get their vaccination campaign to its destination safely. The Big Apple also attracts its citizens with a free visit to the Natural History Museum. In other parts of the country, people who are vaccinated receive donuts, beer or even whiskey. Where marijuana is legal, there is sometimes a joint. The American vaccination campaign got off to a great start, but recently it has noticeably lost momentum.
Hospitals dig deep into their pockets
In mid-April, the US administered an average of 3.38 million vaccine doses a day, compared to 1.75 million at the moment. Herd immunity has not yet been achieved. Just under half of the US population has received at least one dose of vaccine. That is only ten percent more than in Germany, although the vaccination campaign in this country had significantly more teething problems.
The US has run into a vaccination wall through culture wars, distrust of the health system and medical skepticism. Many people are against the corona vaccination or at least undecided. “Even in the important health sector there are some who are of the opinion that diseases are a part of life,” explains Nora Szech about her research results. This is why hospitals in the USA in particular would dig deep into their pockets to get really high vaccination rates.
At the beginning of the vaccination campaign, around a third of workers in New York’s public clinics spoke out against vaccination. Some hospitals have made it compulsory, others have opted for incentives: staff often receive a bonus of up to $ 500 if they are vaccinated. In some cases, it’s as high as $ 750.
Nothing is better than a little
Other companies, led by the health sector, are now following suit. Amazon employees get $ 100 for providing evidence that they have been vaccinated. American Airlines employees receive $ 50 plus one additional day of vacation. Aldi and the well-known retailer Target offer their employees up to four hourly wages as a reward and sometimes also take part in the taxi ride to the vaccination appointment – if it costs no more than $ 30 there and back.
Nora Szech doesn’t think that makes sense. “The employer may well mean that, but it is not doing himself a great favor,” says the economist. “We see that in our data: If very little is paid, around 20 euros, that is not a good idea. Then the willingness to vaccinate is even lower than if nothing is paid at all.”
Everyone is happy about small gifts like flowers. Financial compensation, on the other hand, must be appropriate, otherwise it will appear disrespectful.
Security as a reward
Jim Justice, the governor of West Virginia, seems to have recognized this. In late April, he announced that all 16- to 35-year-old citizens of his state would receive a $ 100 bond if they get vaccinated. That is the equivalent of almost 83 euros – with the prospect that it will be more in the future.
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A sensible, but also an expensive undertaking. Because if all of the 380,000 young Americans in West Virginia take part, the state will end up paying $ 38 million. But then, according to Governor Justice’s plans, 70 percent of the population are vaccinated.
The bill in neighboring Ohio will not be quite as high, but Governor Mike DeWine’s plan still attracts a little more attention than that of his counterpart. DeWine is giving away five million dollars to five vaccinated adults. A million for each. The first winner is Abbigail Bugenske.
There are still no official studies as to whether such lure offers work. So far, it has been more likely to investigate which ones are fundamentally sensible – regardless of vaccination and pandemic, says economist Szech.
Vaccination lottery seems to be working
But the vaccination lottery seems to be arriving: In the first week of May, 73,000 people in Ohio were vaccinated. In the following week, after Governor DeWine announced the million dollar prize, 113,000 doses were administered – an increase of 53 percent, and comparatively cheaply: About 11.5 million people live in “Buckeye State”. Of these, 4.6 million or 39 percent are already fully vaccinated. If the lottery adds another million, the state paid only $ 5 per vaccinee for this increase.
But such incentives may create a new problem: people who consciously wait in order to receive the greatest possible reward in the end. Who wants a bag of fries when you can have $ 750 or even a million?
Nora Szech therefore pleads for all who are vaccinated to be compensated retrospectively. “Then there are no strange effects that someone strategically waits with his vaccination,” she says in the podcast. “I think that’s fair because those who have already been vaccinated have been contributing to the common good all the time. Why should they go away empty-handed?”
Governor Justice does just that. In West Virginia, all young people who are vaccinated really get a bond loan. It doesn’t matter when it was their turn. In spite of cultural struggles and concerns, US President Joe Biden’s plan that at least 70 percent of American adults will have received at least one dose of vaccine by July 4th, the American national holiday, will work out. That would be eight percent more than before.