States are hoping for free joints, raceway drives will increase the vaccination rate

Marijuana activists distributed free joints to vaccinated New Yorkers in New York City on April 20, 2021. Washington State approved similar programs in early June.

ANGELA WEISS | AFP | Getty Images

With Covid vaccination rates stagnating or falling across the country, public and private concerns are increasingly turning to incentives – from free donuts to million dollar payouts to marijuana cigarettes or a lap around a NASCAR track – to Americans convince one to get immunized.

On Monday, Washington State Alcohol and Cannabis Administration launched its Joints for Jabs program, which authorizes marijuana dispensaries to give a free joint to anyone who gets vaccinated by July 12th. A similar effort has reportedly been started in Arizona.

Other states like New Jersey and Connecticut are rather old-fashioned and offer a free beer or soft drink to encourage more people to get vaccinated against Covid. And last month, the Alabama Department of Public Health and other agencies partnered with the state’s Talladega Superspeedway to offer a chance to two free laps of the famous racetrack for those over 16 years of age.

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Ohio and Maryland, on the other hand, turned to cold, hard money.

In May, Maryland hosted the first of its $ 40,000 lottery draws for people who were vaccinated. Forty consecutive days of the drawing for a prize of $ 40,000 will end on July 4th with a final drawing for a payout of $ 400,000.

Ohio also holds a number of cash prize draws, though its “Vax-a-Million” competition puts the stakes up significantly.

In the private sector, Krispy Kreme was one of the first in March to introduce a nationwide Covid vaccine incentive, offering a free glazed donut to every adult with a vaccination card. Earlier this month, the company announced that it had given away more than 1.5 million donuts. (The offer is still valid for the rest of the year.)

“We were the first national brand to campaign to help Americans choose to vaccinate, and we hoped others would join,” said Dave Skena, chief marketing officer at Krispy Kreme.

“That’s why it’s very gratifying to see so many companies, organizations, communities and even state governments encourage and inspire people to protect themselves and others with vaccinations.”

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The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that roughly half of the US population has received at least one vaccination – and yet the pace of Covid vaccinations has slowed nationwide.

Incentives could become increasingly important to get the needle moving from here, according to Bob Bollinger, professor of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and inventor of the Emocha Health app.

“It really depends on what barriers people have to get vaccinated,” said Bollinger. The higher these barriers are, the harder they are to overcome, he added.

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A handful of states have reported that vaccination incentive programs have increased local immunization rates in some populations following recent declines.

For its part, Ohio said its vaccination rates doubled in some counties after the state vaccine lottery was announced.

Recent data shows that the Gambit might be more effective for certain demographics, but has few overall drawbacks, according to a report by Morning Consult.

The survey of 2,200 adults, including nearly 1,600 unvaccinated people, found that men are more inclined than women to say that these offers would get them to sign up for a vaccination. Democrats, more than Republicans, also said they were more likely to get vaccinated if they could get free goods or services, and broken down by generations, millennials were the most likely to say that certain freebies would motivate them to get vaccinated.

A previous survey by Blackhawk Network found that more than two-thirds of adults said they would accept a monetary incentive of as little as $ 10 to $ 1,000. A third said they would get vaccinated for $ 100 or less. Blackhawk Network surveyed more than 2,000 adults in January.

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– CNBC’s Kenneth Kiesnoski contributed to this story.

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