You can say all you want about rewarding people for bad behavior, but it works. It works so well that even those grumbling about the unfairness will admit its effectiveness.
Of course, the people who deliberately delayed getting the coronavirus vaccine didn’t know their delay would make them eligible for rewards. The enticements started shortly after the rush for the first vaccinations slowed. In mid-May, CBS correspondent Vladimir Duthiers spent a day going around New York taking advantage of all the vaccine-linked freebies — everything from Nathan’s hot dogs to tickets to the ballpark and the American Museum of Natural History, and free Junior’s Cheesecake. In Boston, free Blue Bike rides, no charge Lyft and Uber rides to a vaccine site, free French fries from Shake Shack, and $25 gift cards are the ongoing gifts.
To my knowledge, nobody is counting how many people got a vaccine because of the enticements, but I have no doubt some did. Americans are hardwired for free stuff or the possibility of free stuff. Which is why I was a little annoyed that all the goodies became available after ome of us had already gotten our shot.
This is why I am eager for the Massachusetts VaxMillions Giveaway, a statewide weekly drawing only for Massachusetts residents 18 years and older, who are fully vaccinated. Non vaccinated residents will miss out on the chance for the five $1 million jackpots. Toto, we’re a long way from free French fries.
Gov. Charlie Baker acknowledged Massachusetts’ great success with more than half of all residents vaccinated. “The Vax Millions Giveaway is one of the many ways our administration is encouraging people to get the vaccine,” he explained. Baker also announced another separate weekly drawing for Massachusetts residents between the ages of 12 and 17 years of age. They could win one of five $300,000 college scholarships, again only for the young people who are vaccinated. All you need is proof of vaccination for both special lotteries, which kick off later this week on July 1. Finally, good behavior rewarded.
To be clear, I am making a distinction between those who had easy access to vaccine shots and just didn’t do it and those still unvaccinated because of a lack of access. They’ll be better served now that shots are being administered in grocery stores and churches and mobile buses. The President and Chief Executive Officer of the Kaiser Family Foundation told the New York Times, it’s harder to move the vaccine-reluctant, saying “at this point there’s almost no low hanging fruit, but there is a path toward a slow but steady increase in vaccination rates.” Especially, if you dangle a chance at a million bucks.
Do I wish that everybody would feel a civic responsibility and get the vaccine so all of us could be protected? I do. Do I care if the promise of a big payoff is what moves people to get the shot? I don’t. Because the longer unvaccinated people delay, the faster the Delta variant, a coronavirus strain, is taking hold. It’s been linked to most COVID-19 deaths in India and the U.K., and here it is present in 49 states. What’s worse, it spreads faster and makes victims sicker. Oh, and most of the victims are young.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warns the Delta Variant is a “dangerous threat” because right now 20 percent of new COVID-19 infections are caused by it, and he expects the number to rise. I want to get to the highest vaccination rates soon so I can feel more confident about a widespread strong herd immunity.
I guess we’ll see how strong when vaccinated Bay Staters begin signing up for Vax Millions. I know some will question the use of federal stimulus dollars to pay for the giveaway, though in the end it is good for public health. But, as someone who didn’t need any persuasion to get my vaccine shot, I wouldn’t mind if the universe rewarded me with enough good karma to pocket a cool million.