Do vaccine incentives work? Experts explain the psychology behind them

Posted at 6:11 AM, Jun 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-14 08:24:24-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — What will it take to get a vaccine in your arm? It's a question, several states including Colorado have asked, in the form of lotteries, scholarships, and other giveaways. But do incentives really work? Experts say it depends on what barriers people have in getting vaccinated. It also depends on their hesitancy, and what kind of incentive it is.

Sociologists and psychologists say cash incentives can backfire. For some people, the cash indicates that there must be some kind of risk associated with it, in order for cash to be the reward. People can become even more suspicious about the government's motivations and why they are being offered this vaccine.

"The principles state that they [incentives] should have some efficacy, but they also state that the most efficacious incentives are the ones where people get a guaranteed reward," said Nichole Lighthall, an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Central Florida. Lighthall spoke to our news partners in Florida about the psychology behind incentives.

Giant jackpots and lotteries are a different story. Experts say people tend to be fascinated by lotteries and big cash, however people may still question the motivation behind a government lottery. This approach has a better chance of persuading skeptics than smaller cash rewards.

Here's a list of some vaccine incentives offered in our area:

  • Target: $5 gift card for people vaccinated through CVS
  • Krispy Kreme: One free glazed donut a day for anyone who shows their COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card
  • CVS Health: (125) $500 giveaways and (5) grand prize giveaways of $5,000 for family reunions
  • Colorado Comeback Cash Program
  • Safeway: 10% off your purchase after you get vaccinated at one of their locations
  • United Airlines: "Your Shot to Fly” Sweepstakes for Mileage Plus members to win a year of free flights or a roundtrip for two in any class of service