In Wisconsin, a $ 100 vaccine incentive appears to be working. Nationally, incentive results are a tossup.

MADISON, Wisconsin – A week after Governor Tony Evers promised a $ 100 debit card to anyone in Wisconsin receiving their first COVID-19 vaccine, the 7-day average of vaccines administered reached its highest level since late June.

From free beer to cash prizes, COVID-19 vaccine incentives have emerged across the country as part of a nationwide campaign to get more Americans vaccinated, with mixed results. For the people of Wisconsin, the promise of a $ 100 gift card likely helped more than 65,000 Wisconsin residents receive their first dose within 13 days of the Get Vaccine, Get 100 announcement. $ “from Evers.

The results had state officials happy enough to maintain the incentive beyond the originally announced end date of September 6 to the new September 19 deadline.

“This is for sure the highlight of the last few weeks,” Wisconsin Department of Health Services secretary-designate Karen Timberlake told News 3 Investigates. “We are very satisfied with the results obtained so far.

The increase in vaccine incentives follows President Biden’s recommendation that states, territories and local authorities should use US bailout dollars to encourage citizens to take the vaccine with $ 100 incentives. With the current number of first doses in Wisconsin equivalent to about $ 6.5 million in incentive payments, the $ 100 cards will come from the state’s ARPA fund pool. Incentives are partly targeted for those hesitant to vaccinate, but also for those who may face additional barriers to getting vaccinated.

“They have to hire a babysitter, or they have transportation issues, or they have to take time off work because they don’t work in a place that gives them sick time,” said Timberlake.

Yet, with Evers extending the incentive program to run for another two weeks, the effectiveness of vaccine incentives from a national perspective remains uncertain. Additionally, health policy experts point to the pros and cons, and sometimes ethical concerns associated with health incentives.

Justin Sydnor, professor at UW-Madison School of Business with expertise in economic behaviorals and health care, these incentives could cause people who are already hesitant to receive the vaccine to increase their concerns.

“There is reason to fear that the incentives will backfire on some of these situations,” Sydnor said. “Sometimes when you offer an incentive, it indicates that the thing you are trying to encourage might not be that appealing, so that’s a slight concern.”

Nationally, the effectiveness of incentives varies

An analysis of data from various types of incentives from other states shows mixed results, especially depending on the type of incentive. Examples are plentiful in Wisconsin: A chance to win Bucks tickets for Game 5 of the NBA Finals only prompted 19 people to get shot; later, hundreds of people got one in exchange for a free cream puff at the Wisconsin State Fair.

In Minnesota, the state offered a $ 100 gift card vaccination incentive that served as a model for the Wisconsin program. The program has also been extended due to its apparent success, with Minnesota’s 7-day average dropping from 2,675 last month to around 4,955 at the end of August. This caused an old-fashioned rivalry between the states.

“We looked carefully at Minnesota which had a similar incentive program,” said Timberlake. Are we beating their results? “There’s still that Wisconsin-Minnesota rivalry so we’d love to be ahead of them on that point.”

Vaccination incentive efforts have appeared to be effective in New Jersey thus, where people receiving a first dose also received a free bear in May. A week after the start of the incentive program, the state recorded an average of 7 days go from about 66,000 on May 4 to about 75,000 hits a day a week later.

But an inducement similar to free beer in Connecticut had a much different result, where the 7-day average of new vaccine doses fell from over 40,000 on the day of the announcement, April 26, to about 33,000 on May 11.

It can be difficult to determine whether immunization incentives are working because states don’t know what immunization rates would have looked like without them. In addition, other variables can also skew the data.

For example, Governor Gavin Newsom in California offered a series of incentives, including free Six Flags tickets, $ 50 gift cards, and the chance to win big bucks. After the announcement of his “Vax for the Win” lottery program, he claimed a 22% increase in doses week after week. But health experts in California say the results are not so clear; a drop in immunizations over Memorial Day weekend and another wave of vaccines after Pfizer’s emergency clearance for children ages 12 to 15 could also have resulted in a 22% increase, rather than be exclusively an incentive result.

In a press conference Two weeks ago, Evers said he was initially skeptical about the success rate of incentive programs, but decided to move forward with the program after witnessing the success of the efforts of the incentive program. Michigan Vaccine Lottery. However, the effectiveness of this particular lottery program has also offered mixed results.

When the Michigan Million Dollar Lottery incentive was announced, millions of residents signed up. At the time, the state’s vaccination rate was 61.82%. However, the state indicated that the vaccination rate only increased to 62% for people aged 16 or over the following week.

This number indicates that most of the roughly 1.4 million Michigan residents who signed up for the lottery had already been vaccinated before the announcement, suggesting that the announcement did not encourage many unvaccinated people to get vaccinated, according to WOOD-TV.

Health policy experts: there are pros and cons

While the success rate of vaccination incentives can be difficult to determine, health experts say government officials should use all available tools to encourage people to get vaccinated.

According to Thomas Oliver, professor of population health sciences at UW-Madison and expert in health policy, the social costs of an unvaccinated population represent a greater risk than the financial cost of a program. vaccination incentive.

“The cost we face socially and individually if we get sick – all the costs of health care, all the stress on all of our other services, people can’t go to work, they lose income… there’s a lot of costs that are lost there to the disease, ”Oliver said.

“I think the government is very responsible in adding this as one more thing to try to tip the scales in favor of immunizing people who have had trouble justifying themselves or taking the time to go and do it. “

Still, Oliver explained that vaccine incentives can cause ethical problems.

“The problem with the financial reward is that it sends a very strange message that we have to bribe you rather than people who feel good about themselves,” Oliver said. “If you take the $ 100 bribe, you probably won’t feel as good as if you’ve done something for others.”

It can also cause those who received the vaccine before vaccination incentive programs to feel wronged in some ways, according to Oliver.

“It brings to mind the rest of us who voluntarily went for the vaccine,” Why should anyone else get $ 100 for waiting so long, creating a more dangerous situation for ourselves and for them. others, now being rewarded for procrastinating, blowing it up, or fundamentally opposing it? And now all of a sudden they’re going to get a reward? Said Olivier. “So I think it hurts the social fabric. “

The state had its own answer for fully immunized people who didn’t like their exclusion from the $ 100 card program.

“The good news for them is that they have been protected from COVID-19 this entire time,” Timberlake said. “We want to say a big ‘thank you’ to the 3 million people across Wisconsin who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.”

How to register

In order to receive the award, residents will need to register by completing an online form or by calling 844-684-1064. The information will be used to verify that residents received their first dose between August 20 and September 19.

Payments will be in the form of a $ 100 Visa gift card. Cards will be mailed to participants’ addresses and may take up to six weeks to arrive.

Proof of insurance, identity or citizenship is not required. Residents of Wisconsin aged 12 and older are eligible.

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