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Incentives To Get the COVID-19 Vaccine

Lead Image © Chones, Vitaliygo, Azure / Adobe Stock, Andrew Brumagen

In December, the U.S. authorized its first COVID-19 vaccines, and to date, nearly half of the population has received at least one shot and more than one-third is fully vaccinated.

Still, about 175 million Americans are completely unvaccinated. To get those people to sign up for their shots, restaurants, governments, and other groups across the nation are offering the following incentives to get the COVID-19 vaccine — besides the biggest benefit, of course: 95% protection against COVID-19.

Food, Drinks, and Drugs

For those who can't pass up a free meal (or at least part of one), the following restaurants are offering these freebies to anyone who shows proof that they've received a COVID-19 vaccine.

Oh, and there's free beer and weed up for grabs, too, for the over-21 crowd.

  • Krispy Kreme is offering anyone who gets at least one shot a free donut every day for the rest of 2021.

  • Vaccinated individuals can stop by White Castle for a free dessert-on-a-stick (ends May 31).

  • Shake Shack locations in NYC are giving free french fries to vaccinated New Yorkers with purchase of a sandwich (ends June 12).

  • New Jersey residents who get their first shot in May can get a free beer at a participating brewery, as part of its "Shot and a Beer" campaign. They can also enjoy a free glass of wine from a participating winery through the "Uncork the Vaccination" promotion.

  • Connecticut residents can get a free beer if they show their vaccine card at participating restaurants from through the end of May.

  • Marijuana activists and dispensaries have been giving free weed to vaccinated people in Washington D.C., Arizona, Michigan, and other locations through "Pot for Shots" and "Joints for Jabs" initiatives.

Fun Times

Being vaccinated means being able to safely enjoy activities that were prohibited early in the pandemic. These incentives to get the COVID-19 vaccine could appeal to those looking to have a little more fun in 2021 than they did last year.

  • Illinois is giving away 50,000 tickets to Six Flags amusements parks in Gurnee and Rockford to vaccinated residents.

  • New York is giving free ticket vouchers to Yankees or Mets baseball games to people who get their shots at the teams' stadiums.

  • Starting May 27, New Jersey will be giving residents who get at least one shot by the Fourth of July a "State Parks Vax Pass." That pass grants them free admission to all 51 state parks and forest facilities that typically charge a fee, and it’s valid until the end of the year.

  • Maine residents have a slew of incentives to get the COVID-19 vaccine, from free hunting and fishing licenses to free tickets to car races and baseball games.

  • Chicago has launched a free summer concert series that's only accessible to people who've been vaccinated.

  • With both the Nets and Knicks in the NBA playoffs this year, New York has announced increased ticket capacity at home games, mostly in vaccinated-only sections. Masks will also be optional in these sections, following CDC guidance.

Money Talks

Nothing motivates people like money, and several states now have incentives to get the COVID-19 vaccine that involve cold, hard cash (or at least something equivalent to it).

  • Ohio is giving five vaccinated residents each $1 million through a weekly lottery, kicking off on May 26. It's also giving five vaccinated minors (kids 12 and up can now be vaccinated) a full, four-year scholarship to a state university through a parallel drawing.

  • New York's "Vax & Scratch" program will give $20 scratch-off lottery tickets to people who get their shots at 10 state-run vaccination sites. There's a top prize of $5 million, but every vaccinated scratcher has a one-in-nine chance of walking away with at least some amount of cash. That promotion runs from May 24 to May 28.

  • Every Oregon resident over the age of 12 who gets at least one dose by June 27 will be entered in the state's "Take Your Shot Oregon” lottery. All adult entrants will have a shot at a $1 million grand prize, and one person from each of the state's 36 counties will win $10,000. Minors will have an opportunity to win one of five $100,000 college scholarships.

  • Any adult who has received a shot in Maryland is automatically entered into the state's vaccine lottery. Every day through July 3, one person will win $40,000, and on July 4, the state will give away a grand prize of $400,000.

  • West Virginia plans to give $100 savings bonds to vaccinated residents between the ages of 16 and 35 (though it's still trying to work out the logistics).

  • Maine is giving away 10,000 $20 gift cards to outdoor recreation retailer L.L. Bean.

  • Detroit is offering $50 debit cards to anyone who brings in someone to get vaccinated. This is more an incentive to help others, but there's no rule saying you can't split it! With a two-dose vaccine, that's up $100 — 50/50 seems fair?

  • Until July 4, Lyft and Uber are offering free rides to or from COVID-19 vaccine appointments — not exactly rewarding people for getting their shot, but at least eliminating a potential financial barrier.

Editor's Note, 5/21/21, 3:50 ET: This article was updated with new incentives.

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