Our survey of vaccine incentives across Massachusetts
Starting on July 1, the Commonwealth will offer $1million dollars to five lucky adults and college scholarships to five 12 to 17-years-olds. It’s the Massachusetts VaxMillions Giveaway, and all Mass residents are eligible.
Besides the million-dollar incentive, governments and others helping to distribute COVID vaccines have made notable creative changes (and headlines) in their efforts to get as many people vaxxed as possible.
Sue Minichiello is the media relations and communications manager of CIC Health. The firm operates the three largest vaccination distribution centers: Gillette Stadium, Reggie Lewis Center, and Hynes Convention Center.
“We should be very proud,” Minichiello said. “The state should be very proud of what it has accomplished in terms of vaccination. But we’re not satisfied yet.”
The total COVID-19 vaccination doses administered in Massachusetts have decreased over the past few weeks. Minichiello explained that it’s a natural decline, since many residents rushed to be vaccinated at the beginning of each phase.
“[The decline] rings true for us that we know we’ve reached as many people as we can with the mass vaccination sites. But we still know how many people there are to get to. So that’s why it was time to get creative,” she said.
In Cambridge, CIC Health will cease the operation of all three major distribution centers by the end of June, replacing them with pop-ups. Samantha Joseph oversees the vaccine equity there, and noted that the floating clinics can resolve one major concern some people have, which is that a trip to a far-away vaccination center may result in time away from work. People can simply walk into a clinic without an appointment, allowing them to get vaccinated during their daily work routine or while shopping.
In Chelsea, there’s a popup vaccine clinic in the parking lot of Market Basket. As a bonus, people getting vaccinated here can receive a $25 gift card to the grocery store.
Sandra Llenus brought her teenage daughter for the first dose. She chose the popup clinic because it works well with her busy schedule. “I can just walk in at a time that works for me,” she said in an interview.
The CIC will also bring their clinics to the Juneteenth celebration of New Bedford and Falls River, providing vaccines along with “music, food, and other activities.” Also, Joseph from CIC Health said they are working to bring vaccines to those who have difficulties leaving their home.
As for the effectiveness of these incentives …
Lynn Vavreck, a professor at UCLA, wrote in the New York Times about her latest research, which found that monetary payments and a loosened mask requirement are two incentives that can actually persuade people to get the jab.
“Certainly, these incentives are positive,” Joseph said. “We’re still learning a lot about which ones are the most effective. But if nothing else, we’re hoping that the person [who got vaccinated] will become an ambassador for the program, and that they may be able to convince other friends and family members to get vaccinated as well.”
Besides the gift card, the CIC plans to bring the clinic to public school graduation ceremonies, where it will be made available for graduates and their family members. The graduates will receive a pair of baseball game tickets when they come back for the second dose.
Joseph also said the CIC is working with immigrant advocates to bring vaccines to those who are not proficient in English, and/or do not trust the medical system. Part of that campaign is telling people that they will not require people to present ID or insurance information to be vaccinated.
Still, with all of the incentives and creative methods being deployed by medical professionals and politicians alike, for some, it will still take a leap of faith.
“We would love to do everything we can to change their minds,” Minichiello said. “But ultimately, it’s a personal decision.”
Joseph explained that over time, the COVID vaccination will become normalized and accessible by the doctors.
“The hope would be that as we progress throughout the year, there are these different methods for people to access the vaccine, even if they don’t do it this summer.”