What works and what doesn’t when it comes to encouraging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19? A new study from North Carolina shows that offering $ 25 to people who get their first shot was a big factor, while high odds on a lottery jackpot made little difference.
The study released Monday looked at a pilot program offering $ 25 to residents of four counties. Of the 401 vaccinees surveyed, more than two-fifths cited prepaid payment cards as an important reason they went for the vaccine.
Hispanics, other racial minorities, and residents earning less than $ 40,000 a year were more likely than white and wealthier residents to view charge cards as a primary reason for getting the vaccine, according to the report published online in JAMA Internal Medicine.
About 1 in 11 respondents said they would not have come for a COVID-19 injection if the $ 25 benefit had not been offered at participating sites in Mecklenburg, Guilford, Rowan and Rockingham counties. About 1 in 7 respondents said they waited to get the vaccine until they found out they could get a charge card or other incentive.
“With hundreds of millions of dollars spent to accelerate adoption of the COVID-19 vaccine, the results of this study suggest that this strategy of increasing immunization deserves a larger investment,” the authors wrote.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services authored the study in collaboration with researchers at the Central University of North Carolina and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
After the pilot program ended in June, Governor Roy Cooper and DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen decided to offer a financial reward of $ 100 and make the benefit more widely available statewide.
Less successful, however, has been the deployment in North Carolina of a $ 4.5 million lottery prize ultimately won by just eight residents. Four children aged 12 to 17 who were each vaccinated were eligible for $ 125,000 in college scholarships, while four adults aged 18 or older each received $ 1 million before taxes.
In the first two weeks after the state’s announcement of the lottery in June, around 118,000 residents received their first vaccine, but the number of weekly vaccinations remained stable for much of June and July before increase in late July and early August amid substantial spread of the most contagious delta variant.
“These large but uncertain financial awards benefit only a few lucky winners and do not generally address barriers to access to immunization,” the authors wrote, adding that the financial rewards should be considered in conjunction with other methods to promote equitable distribution of vaccines.
The latest data from the state’s health department shows eight straight weeks of weekly declines in the number of North Carolinians receiving a first dose. Although more data is pending, figures released on Monday show that only around 19,000 residents received their first injection of COVID-19 last week, the lowest weekly number to date.
State health officials ended their $ 100 vaccine reward in August. The incentives section of the NCDHHS website now tells visitors to find a vaccine location nearby.