Some frontline health care and emergency response workers are being offered financial and other types of incentives to get the experimental COVID-19 vaccines being distributed under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) granted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).1 There are media reports that many workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic are refusing to get a COVID-19 shot. 2 3 4 5 6 Some employers are offering both monetary and non-monetary compensation as an incentive to get vaccinated.7
There were indications in the fall of 2020 that health care workers on the frontline of treating COVID-19 patients were not planning to get a COVID-19 shot. According to a survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in September 2020, only 63 percent of health care personnel reported that they would be likely to get a COVID-19 vaccine.8 The American Nurses Foundation reported in October 2020 that 36 percent of nurses’ surveyed said they would not get the COVID-19 vaccine.9
Cash Payments Offered to Encourage COVID-19 Vaccination
Media reports show that employers around the country are offering workers on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic a range of incentives to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Marc Boom, MD, CEO of Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas told the hospital’s 26,000 employees that they would receive a $500 bonus but only if they fulfilled certain eligibility criteria. He said, “Eligibility criteria to receive the award include getting a COVID-19 vaccination, fulfilling our obligation as health care workers to lead the community,”10
Gracedale Nursing Home in Nazareth, Northampton County in Pennsylvania is offering its employees a one-time payment $750 as an incentive for getting the COVID-19 vaccine. One of the primary reasons for incentive is that many of their employees have expressed concern over the safety of the experimental mRNA COVID-19 vaccines being made available in the U.S. under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) granted to vaccine manufacturers by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).11
Northampton County officials have said they will be using money received through the federal CARES Act for the payout, which could cost approximately $490,000 for 650 employees.12 The Northampton County Council approved a resolution offering employees the incentive. Part of the resolution stated, “[T]here may be some reticence on the part of some staff to be inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccination due in part to the rapidity of its development…”13
Gracedale Nursing Home Administrator Jennifer Stewart-King said the payment will help persuade staff to get COVID-19 vaccine. Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure added, “We have anecdotal reports that people are concerned. Their concerns are valid, no doubt about it.”14
Los Angeles Firefighters Offered Financial Incentives to Get COVID-19 Vaccine
The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) in California has offered raffle prizes for all firefighters who get the COVID-19 vaccine.15 Prizes include gift cards for Airbnb and Lyft, home security cameras, bicycles, and Google Nest entertainment systems. The Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises money to support the department, is funding the gifts.16
The LAFD stated that the incentives are required because not enough firefighters are accepting the new COVID-19 vaccines. LAFD Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said, “Only 1,000 out of 3,400 were vaccinated in the first week.”17 Frank Lima, an LAFD captain and former president of the union representing rank-and-file firefighters said that he encourages all firefighters to get the vaccine; however, he believes everyone has the right to make their own decision. He said, “While we will fight tooth and nail to give them every opportunity, we respect their right to make that decision.”18
Research Shows Incentives Could Fuel More Vaccine Hesitancy
Some economists and politicians have proposed and supported the idea of paying Americans to get the COVID-19 vaccine.19Economist Robert Litan, PhD called the idea an “adult version of the doctor handing out candy to children.”20 While providing incentives to get the vaccine may seem like a reasonable and straightforward idea to some, research suggests that such initiatives could backfire by sending a message that an offer of payment implies there is increased risk or reduced value of the product, which is why financial incentives are being offered to buy or use the product.21
An article in The New York Times noted, “Humans don’t respond to incentives like rats pressing levers for food; they try to interpret what being offered payment means. In this case, the offer risks implying that the vaccine is not a thing of value.”22
Click here to view References:
1 Willetts M. Can you get paid to get a COVID vaccine? Some employers offering incentives. Miami Herald Jan. 6, 2021.
2 Parpia R. Many Health Care Workers Concerned About Safety of COVID-19 Vaccines. The Vaccine Reaction Dec. 28, 2020.
3 Madani D. Many front-line workers refuse Covid vaccines as distribution struggles. Yahoo News Dec. 31, 2020.
4 23WIFR. Many health care workers refuse the COVID-19 vaccine. Jan. 9, 2021.
5 Dorn S. Thousands in FDNY reject COVID-19 vaccine – while NYPD waits for shots. New York Post Jan. 9, 2021.
6 Sharma A. Roughly Half of Caregivers At Long Term Care Facilities Refusing COVID-19 Vaccine. KPBS Jan. 15, 2021.
7 Welsh B. LAFD Officials Offering Vaccine Incentives. Los Angeles Times Jan. 6, 2021.
8 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ACIP Evidence to Recommendations for Use of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine under an Emergency Use Authorization. September 2020.
9 American Nurses Association. Pulse on the Nation’s Nurses COVID-19 Survey Series: COVID-19 Vaccine. October 2020.
10 Gibson K. Houston hospital offers workers $500 to get COVID-19 vaccine. CBS News Jan. 5, 2021.
11 Perez W. Lehigh Valley nursing home employees offered money to get COVID-19 vaccine. 6ABC Dec. 29, 2020.
12 Ward J. Gracedale staff to be offered $750 to get COVID-19 vaccine. WFMZ Dec. 17, 2020.
13 Perez W. Lehigh Valley nursing home employees offered money to get COVID-19 vaccine. 6ABC Dec. 29, 2020.
14 Ward J. Gracedale staff to be offered $750 to get COVID-19 vaccine. WFMZ Dec. 17, 2020.
15 Willetts M. Can you get paid to get a COVID vaccine? Some employers offering incentives. Miami Herald Jan. 6, 2021.
16 Welsh B. Free Airbnb with your COVID-19 vaccine? Firefighters offered prizes along with priority access. Los Angeles Times Jan. 5, 2021.
17 Willetts M. Can you get paid to get a COVID vaccine? Some employers offering incentives. Miami Herald Jan. 6, 2021.
18 Welsh B. Free Airbnb with your COVID-19 vaccine? Firefighters offered prizes along with priority access. Los Angeles Times Jan. 5, 2021.
19 Loewenstein G, Cryder C. Why Paying People to Be Vaccinated Could Backfire. The New York Times Dec. 15, 2020.
20 Rutschman A, Gatter R. Why paying people to get the coronavirus vaccine won’t work. The Conversation Dec. 11, 2020.
21 Loewenstein G, Cryder C. Why Paying People to Be Vaccinated Could Backfire. The New York Times Dec. 15, 2020.