In a recent research letter at JAMA Network Open, Georgiou et al examined the impact of a large cash incentive offered by a private employer to get their hold-out employees vaccinated against COVID.
Those fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by September 30, 2021, would receive a $1000 incentive if able to show proof of vaccination. The incentive was paid in October 2021.
Of the 2055 employees, 1,555 were fully vaccinated before the incentive program was announced. These folks were going to get the bonus no matter what they did. There were also 500 people who were not fully vaccinated when the program was announced. This is the target population where the bonus would be used to buy vaccinations.
At the end of the incentive program, 214 additional people were full vaccinated, or slightly more than 40% of the not-fully vaccinated and thus incentive influenceable population.
$1,000 is real money to me. It is real money to a lot of people. And it only modestly moved the needle on the number of people who were vaccinated. The authors found a spike in vaccinations immediately after the incentive was announced. However, there was rapid decay immediately afterwards which, to me, suggests that the incentive acted as an attention shock to people who were likely to eventually get vaccinated but had not yet done so. The value of the incentive is less than the the 214 people who finished their vaccination sequence as some of these folks were likely to have received a 2nd dose without an incentive.
I’m eyeballing the charts right now, but the story I am seeing is that there are significant groups of people who won’t respond to cash incentives for vaccinations as being anti-COVID vax has become part of their identity. Incentives might help shift timing and compress the span between doses for people who are likely to eventually get vaccinated, but non-coercive measures hit a limit.