New York county discovers secret to getting more people vaccinated: Free beer

But what about the people who already got vaccinated without being offered free beer? Do they get a free beer after the fact?

It’s the same moral dilemma that drives the debate over student debt forgiveness, except for alcoholics.

Where’s my free Guinness?

No, actually, I’m all for bribing the vaccine holdouts to get their shots even if it means I get gypped for having been vaccinated already. Ultimately I reap a personal benefit from strangers deciding to get immunized. The more of them there are, the less virus there is in my community, and the lower my already very low risk of suffering a breakthrough infection becomes.

Get all the holdouts hosed. Hold vaccination keg-stand promotions for all I care. Whatever works.

Judging by the results in Erie County this past weekend, the offer of free booze really might work.

“We’re going to do more people today at our first-dose clinics than most of our first-dose clinics in the last week combined,” Poloncarz said. “It’s been a success. We figured it would be pretty good, but now we’re seeing the results.”

That’s not a very high bar, given that many of the county’s first-dose clinics have had less than two dozen people show up. At one site, only one person showed up, Poloncarz said. Comparatively, more than 100 people had been vaccinated at Resurgence by mid-afternoon, including some walk-ups and restaurant patrons who decided to get the vaccine at the spur of the moment.

Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein, who was also on site to vaccinate individuals, said she walked from table to table earlier in the day to recruit people who hadn’t gotten vaccinated yet. At one table, one woman who hadn’t been vaccinated agreed to get a shot after everyone else at the table told her she should.

“There was a lot of social pressure at her table,” she said, “so I was able to vaccinate her.”

The promotion was called “A Shot and a Chaser” and was held at a local microbrewery. Reportedly there was a line out the door before the place opened at 11 a.m. Vaccine techs were injecting people just a few feet away from the massive vats in which the business’s product was being made. They ended up inoculating around 150 people that day while other local vaccination sites are down to single digits daily.

It worked so well, in fact, that they’re holding the next beer promotion two days from now. If you’re in Buffalo and unvaccinated, head on down and tie one on.

The Erie County “Shot and a Chaser” event got headlines this weekend because of how successful it was but other jurisdictions are already tempting holdouts with booze. New Jersey announced a statewide “shot and a beer” gimmick a week ago involving more than a dozen breweries. And Israel, the world’s biggest vaccine success story, was doing “shot for a shot” events back in February. There are two insights into vaccine hesitancy from the success of those promotions, I think. One is that some people can be bought far more cheaply than one might assume:

Not a lot of difference there between how likely people are at $25 to get vaxxed versus $100. Those who got their shot at the Erie County event were bought off for a couple of bucks’ worth of alcohol. Luring in the fencesitters doesn’t need to be very expensive.

The other insight is that not all of the remaining holdouts are hardcore anti-vaxxers, as illustrated in the excerpt by the story of the woman who was goaded into getting the shot by the people at her table. The hardcore vaccine resisters are out there, of course, and nothing’s going to change their minds. A large body of misinformed people are out there too, who read somewhere online that the vaccine causes infertility or will let Bill Gates secretly upload your thoughts to his home computer or whatever. Maybe some of those people can be flipped with better information but it’ll take work.

But then there’s the lazy group. They’re not opposed to getting vaccinated for ideological reasons or because they’ve succumbed to propaganda. They just haven’t gotten around to scheduling an appointment and might not ever get around to it because they’ve calculated that their personal risk of suffering a serious case of COVID is minuscule. There are *lots* of young adults in the lazy group, I’d guess. They’re the ones who can be bought off because they’re not “resisting” in any meaningful way. Just make it easy by bringing the vaccine to them, hand them a beer or free pizza or whatever, and we can put a meaningful dent in the share of Americans that haven’t had their shots yet.

Here’s a little glimpse of what it looked like on Saturday.