Ohio’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine, on Wednesday announced that any adult resident who had received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine would be eligible for five weekly giveaways of $1 million starting May 26. Those 17 and under will be eligible for full scholarships to a state school. The money will come from coronavirus relief funds.
The Buckeye State is in a race to encourage as many people as possible to get vaccinated before June 2, when DeWine has indicated that coronavirus restrictions will lift in most places (not in assisted living communities and nursing homes).
He’s definitely trying to use a carrot rather than a stick to increase the vaccination rate in the state, where 43% of residents have received at least one dose, a rate that is a little lower than the national rate of 47%, according to available data.
DeWine’s incentive may be the biggest, but he’s not the only state or city official trying to entice residents to get the shot. New Jersey residents who get vaccinated in May, for instance, can get a free beer; Maryland is offering $100 to state employees who get vaccinated; West Virginia is offering $100 savings bonds to those 16 to 35 who get vaccinated; in Nashville, TN, vaccinated residents are eligible for a free beer or coffee; and Detroit has promised $50 prepaid debit reimbursements to anyone who drives a resident to a vaccination site.
Several long-term care companies are using the carrot approach, too.
Merrill Gardens had prize giveaways for vaccinated workers, including a grand prize of five days of paid time off and $2,000 for a vacation, President Tana Gall told me.
Bay Village, an IntegraCare assisted living and memory care in Annapolis, MD, got a signed certificate and visit from CEO Larry Rouvelas after 100% of employees got the shot, according to the Capital Gazette.
The Gardens at DePugh Nursing Center in Winter Park, FL, used a carrot and peer pressure, promising each vaccinated worker $1,000 bonus — with a catch. Each worker received $100 after his or her first shot. The remaining $900 would come, they were told, when at least 75% of staff members were vaccinated. And it worked! Ninety-two percent of workers there are now vaccinated, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Atria Senior Living has an impressive 98% vaccination rate among staff members, and Silverado has a 97% rate, although vaccine mandates were part of the companies’ success. Many senior living operators in addition to Atria and Silverado have announced mandates for staff, or plans for them — ALG Senior, American House Senior Living Communities, The Arbor Company, Civitas Senior Living, Continuing Healthcare Solutions, Enlivant, Juniper Communities, Masonicare, Retirement Center Management and Sunrise Senior Living among them.
Clearly, the rate of employee vaccination against COVID-19 needs to increase. Whether senior living and other long-term care providers find more success with a carrot or stick remains to be seen.