As states and cities struggle to get residents to take their COVID vaccination, governments are getting creative, offering incentives ranging from free beer to millions of dollars.
Americans naturally have an independent spirit, leading them to shirk government overreach and to question authority. As has been seen during the COVID crisis, Americans, while far more cooperative than their ancestors, still have an obstinate streak, valuing their God-given freedom and bucking against government restrictions.
Government authorities, having used punishment throughout the last year and a half to keep people locked in their houses and masked up, are now switching to an incentive approach, offering rewards in order to encourage — or bribe — Americans into getting their COVID vaccination.
Incentives seem necessary due to the large percentage of Americans who are mildly hesitant or directly opposed to getting the vaccine. Gallup reported that while 60 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, 12 percent plan to be, about 4 percent are only partially vaccinated, and 24 percent of American adults have no intention of getting vaccinated at all.
A large majority of that 24 percent are firmly opposed to receiving the vaccine, as 78 percent of those who do not plan to receive the vaccine say they are unlikely to reconsider and 51 percent say they are “not likely at all” to change their minds.
Vaccine rates also differ widely from state to state.
Authorities are trying to encourage the 12 percent planning to be vaccinated and those open to changing their minds by offering incentives that range from a free beer to college scholarships to cash prizes.
And several states are even offering multimillion dollar lotteries to coax residents into receiving a vaccine.
For example, states like Kentucky and Ohio are offering $1 million drawings for residents who have been vaccinated. Kentucky will hold three separate drawings and also features a separate age category for residents ages 12-17 who can enter for the chance to win one of 15 full scholarships to any Kentucky public college, technical, or trade school. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, D, said, “If you’ve already gotten your shot… good for you, you’re eligible. All you have to do is sign up. If you haven’t gotten your shot, go get it. Protect your family and get qualified for this amazing opportunity.”
Residents can enter at the “Shot at a Million” website, but you have to give permission for the state to view your vaccination record. The money for the drawing is taken from federal COVID relief funds.
Ohio will have five separate winners for the $1 million prizes and five students will receive full-tuition scholarships.
Some states, such as Utah, are opposed to incentives. The Utah legislature expressly opposed any effort by the state’s governor to offer incentives, saying, “Monies appropriated by the Legislature in this item, or by any other appropriation relating to COVID-19 vaccines, may not be used to provide financial incentives, awards, drawings or prizes, or any similar incentive to anyone for receiving a vaccination.”
Utah House Budget Chairman Brad Last, R, said that residents have had “every opportunity” to be vaccinated, adding, “I mean, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. And I don’t think we ought to be paying people to drink. If they feel like they don’t want the vaccine for whatever reason, then that’s their choice. And beyond that, I don’t think we ought to be handing out money to people.”
He also said that Republicans don’t believe in “throwing money” at problems and cautioned against creating a precedent that makes people believe they can wait until the government provides an incentive before doing something that most people would otherwise do.
Call them what you will, incentives, rewards, encouragement, lotteries. In reality, this trend of paying people to get the vaccine is nothing more than a bribe. Governing authorities are bribing citizens to get vaccinated, sometimes against their instinct or belief. If leaders want to offer a bribe, that isn’t necessarily wrong, as no one is being forced to receive the vaccine.
Such incentives do raise utilitarian concerns, though, as we have seen with entitlement programs that once created seem to go on in perpetuity. Once the government starts handing out money, people start to expect it. Will people expect to get paid to take future vaccines, or perhaps refuse to perform their civic duties such as go vote unless they are offered a reward? Also, where is this money coming from? Ultimately it comes from the taxpayer, and hard-working taxpayers do not want their money taken and used in a lottery to be won by someone else.
It also raises philosophical and ethical concerns. Could incentive programs encourage people, particularly poorer people, to receive the vaccine against their religious beliefs or against their best interest? With a subject as serious as vaccines, it is really ethical to entice people to make a decision based on a bribe? And might politicians have gotten just as good or an even better participation rate if they’d just been straight with the American people about why they should take the vaccine and trusted them to make their own personal decisions rather than trying to use gimmicks?
It’s something that probably should have been discussed just a little more deeply or at least mulled over — and given that vaccines are not without risks or potential side effects, let’s hope this political ploy doesn’t come back to haunt anyone.