This appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
More than a third of U.S. adults have yet to be vaccinated for COVID-19, and surveys have shown an array of reasons why people haven't signed up for their shots.
But several states, businesses and the federal government have rolled out million-dollar lotteries, full-ride college scholarships and all manner of freebies such as beer, sports tickets and even guns to reach fence-sitters. President Biden this week announced a monthlong push by his administration to boost vaccinations that includes touting a handful of business incentive programs, as well as expanded vaccination hours at pharmacies and free child care.
If this sounds like desperation, that's because it is. The pace of daily COVID-19 vaccinations has waned from earlier this year, down to 1.1 million a day from a high of 3.4 million. About 63% of the adults in the U.S. have received at least one COVID-19 shot, but experts say the U.S. needs as much as 80% of the population fully inoculated to reach "herd immunity," the point at which enough people have protection that a virus can't spread effectively.
A certain number of people don't plan to get a shot, no matter the inducement. Some can't for medical reasons. But there are data suggesting that programs aimed at those who for whatever reason just haven't gotten around to getting a shot, can work. The week after Ohio rolled out its lottery, its vaccination rate increased 28%.
Some have criticized the lotteries as a waste of money that could be put to better use, such as helping businesses recover from a year of pandemic restrictions. But if the prizes do move the vaccination needle, what could be a better use of those dollars than saving lives and cutting healthcare costs while protecting the county's economy from a fresh outbreak?
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