clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

If it takes a free beer or lottery ticket to get everybody vaccinated, we say ‘Cheers!’

Illinois is among the several states offering prizes to encourage reluctant people to get their COVID-19 shots. President Joe Biden hopes that 70% of Americans will have gotten at least a first dose by the Fourth of July.

On May 29, 2021 at Guaranteed Rate Field, Kevin Hensley receives the COVID vaccine and a $25 discount card for concessions.
Kevin Hensley receives the COVID vaccine last month at Guaranteed Rate Field and a $25 discount card for concessions through an incentive program from Cook County Public Health and the Chicago White Sox.
David Banks/Getty Images file

In retrospect, maybe we should have waited to get that shot.

We were thinking about that this past week as we read about the incentives now being offered to lure vaccine latecomers to get their shots — from amusement park tickets and free drinks to, maybe, a million dollar lottery prize.

We couldn’t help but think: Gee, that would have been great back in March.

We don’t seriously mean that, of course. In truth, we count ourselves among the lucky people who were able to snag COVID-19 vaccine appointments fairly early on. And we’d do it again in a heartbeat, incentives or not, for the sake of our health and the well-being of everyone around us.

We were never among the vaccine hesitant. But for those who were and still are, we favor whatever incentives it might take to change their minds, especially if they are among those Americans who run the highest risk of serious illness from the coronavirus. If a free drink, a $25 discount card or a shot at the lottery is what it takes to get people to do what’s good for us all, no problem.

A critical threshold

That message — Get vaccinated, people! — seems to us to be no less urgent now, even as Chicago and the rest of Illinois prepare to fully reopen on June 11. (Which is excellent news, coming as it does weeks earlier than Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s initial goal of reopening on July 4.)

COVID-19 is still with us, and it’s only because so many of us have gotten the shot — including 52% of Illinois residents and 42% of Chicagoans who are fully vaccinated — that the city and state can dare to return to normal life.

There’s still much room for improvement. The risk of infection, with its potentially deadly consequences, remains real. More teens must be vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week noted, citing a disturbing national increase in hospitalizations of teens with severe illness due to COVID. Here in Chicago, vaccination rates in some city ZIP codes on the South and West sides continue to lag far behind the rest of the city.

“We want to get to that 70% threshold that the president has challenged all of us to get to,” Lightfoot said Thursday. “We’ve got a lot more work that we need to get done.”

Seventy percent is the vaccination rate scientists say is needed to reach herd immunity, the point at which the population as a whole is effectively protected against the virus because enough people have been vaccinated.

On Wednesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker hinted at a big incentive for folks to get their shots, a special state lottery. Up to $7 million in prizes could be awarded to adults; $3 million in scholarships could go to young people. Other states, such as Ohio, New York and West Virginia, have announced vaccine lotteries too.

Critics have a problem with bribing people to do the right thing, and we get that. But incentives can work. In Ohio, the number of first vaccine doses jumped 40% after Gov. Mike DeWine announced a $1 million lottery jackpot.

As a nation, we must do what it takes to deal a knockout punch to the coronavirus. With that in mind, President Joe Biden last week announced various vaccine incentives too, aiming for that 70% goal by the Fourth of July. Our nation is at 63% now, which experts say is just short of being on track.

If we reach Biden’s goal, Anheuser-Busch says it will offer every legal adult a free beer on the Fourth.

Well, sure. Why not?

Cheers! Salud! Bottoms up! Skaal! Slainte! L ‘chaim!

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com