Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday announced a slate of perks and freebies meant to entice Minnesotans who haven't yet been vaccinated to get their shots.
The first 100,000 people to get vaccinated between Memorial Day and the end of June will be eligible to select from such goodies as free fishing licenses and passes to sporting events, fairs, state parks and amusement centers.
The incentives are fairly small, considering what is being offered elsewhere. Perhaps the biggest is Ohio's "Vax-A-Million" lottery, which is awarding $1 million to a person each week for five weeks. Winners are drawn at random from those with proof of vaccination. Those younger than 18 can enter for a full college scholarship.
Since the program was announced, Ohio has seen a 55% increase in vaccinations among 20- to 49-year-olds. A woman from Silverton, Ohio, was the first winner announced Wednesday. Maryland, New York and Oregon plan a similar program.
In Alabama, the Department of Public Health offered two laps around Talladega Superspeedway to those who were tested or vaccinated against COVID-19. To temper the adrenalin a bit, drivers had to use their own vehicles and follow a pace car at highway speeds.
The national vaccination rate continues to lag, and appealing to people's civic duty has failed to get shots in arms quickly enough. And while employers face possible legal hurdles by offering employees rewards for being vaccinated, local businesses and organizations can step up.
- Those who get vaccinated get special seating for the Rochesterfest parade. The vaccines are why we can even have Rochesterfest.
- Same thing with the Fourth of July fireworks. A special viewing area could be designated for them and their families.
- Restaurants, bars, movie theaters, even live theaters could offer tickets for a free drink, appetizer or show. This could do double duty, raising vaccination rates while also driving business to these hard-hit establishments.