How much money does it take to convince hesitant Americans to get vaccinated?

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SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — Cash incentives, such as $100 payments, could persuade more people to get a vaccine, according to a recent study. 

In the survey conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles, more than 75,000 unvaccinated people were interviewed, and about a third of them said a cash payment of as much as $100 would make them more likely to get the COVID-19 shot.

“It is not a surprising result. We’ve used cash incentives believe it or not in other settings, encouraged folks to do sexually transmitted infection screenings and some other interventions. So they do work,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco.

The survey also found a greater willingness among respondents to get the vaccine if doing so meant they wouldn’t have to wear a mask or remain socially distant at events.


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Chin-Hong said these findings show that public health leaders need to be prepared to offer several options for those straddling the line on willingness to get the vaccine.

“It’s not one size fits all. I think cash incentives may appeal to some. To others, it may mean that their friends are going to Outside Lands and they need a vaccine to get in, and maybe that might be the incentive. For others it might be the vaccinated section at the Giants game seem to have a little more liberties than the unvaccinated section,” Chin-Hong said.

Doctors say providing cash incentives to motivate health behavior isn’t anything new and has been successful in the past. Some states are incentivizing COVID-19 vaccinations with everything from free beer to $100 payments.

For example, West Virginia is offering $100 savings bonds to 16- to 35-year-olds who get vaccinated, and Maryland will pay fully vaccinated state employees $100. 

Some breweries in New Jersey are giving out free drinks, while Connecticut and Washington, D.C., are doing something similar.


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Even large companies such as Krispy Kreme, which offered free donuts with proof of vaccination in March, are getting involved. 

“So vital that we all get vaccinated. We need to get it done right now because the longer they wait, the more the chance of variants locally,” Chin-Hong said.

Experts say these sorts of incentives would probably only work for those who fall somewhere in between being eager to get the vaccine and those opposed to getting the vaccine.

Meanwhile, U.S. Census Bureau data shows that under 15% of adults in the U.S. identify as vaccine-hesitant. For this portion of the population, such incentives wouldn’t work and would likely alienate them even more from getting the shot.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions, as of May 7, more than 45% of the U.S. population had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and over 33% was fully vaccinated.

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