Sociology expert says incentives can help with COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy

Posted at 4:02 PM, Apr 13, 2021

Half of all U.S. adults are expected to have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the week. That's if the current numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue at the same pace.

Some companies are looking at this as an opportunity to get customers back in their door by giving away freebies to people who are vaccinated.

Starting Monday, Sam Adams is sending people money for a beer on them. In March— Krispy Kreme started giving away a free doughnut to anyone who showed their vaccine card. And e-commerce company Drop is giving out $50 in points.

One sociology expert says years of research has found that incentives like these can actually help with vaccine hesitancy.

“We know that in a range of places, we all look to our friends, our family, our social network for information. We look to the people who share our values and our ideas to see how they're making decisions, and we often use that information for our own decisions. And vaccine decision-making is really similar,” said Jennifer Reich, a professor of sociology at the University of Colorado Denver.

Reich says companies rewarding customers for getting vaccinated could start to create a social norm around it.

However, getting vaccinated is still a personal choice and there may be some customers who don't agree with vaccine promotions.

But a marketing professor with the University of Denver says that risk is likely something these companies considered.

“I think that at the end of the day, they need to decide, these corporations need to decide, what are their values? What are their corporate values and how do they align with customer values that are out there? And if they align with a large enough part of the population, then it makes sense for them to do that, right?” said Melissa Akaka, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Denver.

Other companies like Starbucks are focusing on vaccine incentives for employees rather than customers.

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