Health and Wellness

Vaccination Incentives: Getting Stuck and Getting Out

September 2, 2021

Vaccination incentives have been all the rage. Now, they are changing, and it might not be good news for some.

Photo of a person in a silhouette standing with her hands to a small window and looking out.

I Was Stuck

Full disclosure:  I was probably one of the last of my friends to jump on the vaccination bandwagon.  Contrary to popular belief, this wasn’t due to any political party affiliation or because I am an anti-vaxxer.  In fact, I am thankful for what science has done to help control deadly diseases.  However, I had my reasons for not elbowing people out of the way to be first in line for the vaccine.  Most importantly, I had COVID in the not-so-distant past.  Therefore, I wanted to let my immunity do its thing before I put it under attack again.  Until I felt my body was ready, there were no vaccination incentives tempting enough to light a fire under me.

Now, with illness rates on the rise, it’s no surprise that the pressure is on to get vaccinated.  However, the incentives will be different than they had been.  Here is what employees need to know about the new approach to encourage vaccinations.  Let me warn you—the new vaccination incentives may not sit well with everyone, so be prepared to hear some grumbling.

One Man’s Trash

Incentives are a funny thing.  You know what they say—what’s one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  As it turns out, the adage also applies to incentives to get vaccinated.  While offers of freebies lured some, a larger portion of the population wasn’t going for it.

Here are some of the goodies that have been offered by large and small businesses alike:

  • donuts
  • beer
  • lottery tickets
  • hunting and fishing licenses
  • free childcare for people as they got vaccinated and recovered
  • free rides from rideshare companies to and from vaccine appointments

As you can see, the offerings aim to appeal to a variety of people, but clearly they didn’t appeal to everyone.  None of the above appealed to me, despite my love for donuts. State vaccination rates for adults range from an estimated 30% of adults in some states to nearly 70% in others.

They Mean Business

Photo of three hands reaching for a roll of toilet paper.

After seeing so many businesses closing due to the impact of COVID, many businesses are doing everything they can to ensure they don’t meet the same fate.  And they mean business in their efforts to stay in business.

So, when offerings of free goods or services—and even time off to get vaccinated—weren’t enough, businesses began upping the ante.  Now, what we’re seeing are the following retractions, since the Feds are no longer requiring employers to make accommodations:

  • no incentives to get vaccinated
  • no special PTO to get tested
  • no special PTO to recover from COVID
  • no special PTO to care for family members who are ill with COVID
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Obviously, this is a far cry from what we were seeing less than a year ago.  While many people felt a huge financial pinch during the height of COVID, others didn’t feel it the same way because their employers protected them when the going got rough.

Now, many employers are not doing employees any favors, if their employees are not making an effort on their own part to protect themselves.

The Anti-Incentive

If there’s going to be an incentive, there’s always a deterrent.  In the case of vaccination anti-incentives, the list is certain to move some people who might otherwise forgo the prick.  In the case of the government, it doesn’t matter whether federal, state, or local because all are strongly urging their employees to get the vaccine.

For other companies, limitations include:

  • periodic and regular COVID testing
  • strict social distancing guidelines
  • mask mandates

Thus, some large corporations are making vaccinations mandatory, meaning unvaccinated employees can’t return to the job site, which could mean they can’t resume their jobs.  The NFL is taking it to the extreme by penalizing teams with unvaccinated players, should there be a COVID outbreak causing a forfeiture. 

The Biggest Incentive

Photo of two people in a side-hug with masks on.

While there have been countless vaccination incentives out there, there is one greater than the rest.  This is the incentive to stay alive and keep friends and family alive.  Truth be told, it’s often the sad reality of seeing a loved one sick or dying that prompts us to action.  If that isn’t enough, then I can’t say what would be.

Without a doubt, those who choose to remain unvaccinated will quickly begin to see barriers to entry for many of the “normal” things we have enjoyed in life thus far.  Suffice it to say, even if they never contract COVID, life could just get harder.

I Got Stuck and I Got Out

One of the hardest things to discuss objectively right now is vaccinations.  Although I felt I had a good reason for delaying the shot, I always felt a little uneasy and unsettled about it.  I avoided talking with friends about it because I wanted to figure it out on my own without all the pressure and political talk.

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So, I debated in my own mind. Was I being too risky by not getting vaccinated immediately?  Were my natural antibodies enough to protect me from getting sick again?  Was it possible I might not get sick, but I could be a carrier and unknowingly infect others? 

On the other hand, I had valid worries about rushing to get the shot.  Could my weakened immune system take the aftereffects of the shot?  Was the vaccine effective? Was the vaccine safe in the long term?  Had we studied it enough to know the long-term effects, should there be any?    

I wish I could say I have answers to any of my questions, but I don’t.  At the end of the day, I made my decision to get vaccinated because I desired above all to do what I could for my community and to not live in fear anymore.  I hope my decision to put my own worries aside was the right one.  If I made the wrong decision, I’m ready to live with it.  What else can I do? What else can any of us do?  Either way, we are rolling the dice.  We are guineapigs to the vaccine, or we are guineapigs to the illness.  We can’t outrun this.  We are choosing one, whether or not we want to admit it to ourselves.

So, if my decision to get vaccinated spares even one person from getting sick—and I hope it does—I think it’s worth the risk in the end.  Suffice it to say, I decided to get stuck, and then I made up my mind to get out of my head.

Photo of Scrabble blocks with the letters spelling LET IT GO.

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