Hy-Vee will give gift cards to people who get their COVID-19 vaccinations at its locations

Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

States around the country have used federal pandemic aid to create incentives programs, ranging from million-dollar lotteries to free fishing licenses, to encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Iowa’s Gov. Kim Reynolds has decided to rely on outreach programs by county health agencies, and done nothing new at the state level. Instead, her approach to encourage people reluctant to be vaccinated has been to repeatedly say people should get the vaccine if that is their personal choice, even though vaccination rates began declining shortly after vaccines became available to all eligible Iowans on April 5.

But while the state government remains largely passive, the state’s largest grocery store chain is starting its own incentive program.

Hy-Vee announced on Monday that anyone who completes their vaccination through its locations will get a $10 Hy-Vee gift card. The gift cards will be available to anyone who has received their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, between June 1 and November 11 at either a Hy-Vee pharmacy or one of the store’s pop-up vaccination clinics.

Hy-Vee began offering vaccinations without appointments since April 28. There is no charge for the vaccination. Individuals with health insurance are asked to bring their policy cards, as are those enrolled in Medicare Part B. People without health insurance will be asked to supply their Social Security numbers as part of the registration process. People are asked to wear face masks when they come in for a vaccination.

CVS announced last Thursday it will hold a sweepstakes, which anyone 18 or older who has received “their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a CVS Pharmacy or by a CVS pharmacist at an off-site clinic, long-term care facility or Return Ready clinic by no later than 11:59 pm on July 10, 2021” can enter to win one of more 1,000 prizes. According to the pharmacy chain, prizes range from VIP tickets to the 2022 Super Bowl to coupon books for Unilever products.

Several states began offering incentives to residents to get vaccinated in April, but the incentive programs have grown since Ohio announced on May 12 it would hold five weekly lottery drawings starting on May 26, in which adults who have at least one dose of vaccination are entered to win $1 million. There is a separate lottery for those 12 to 17 who are vaccinated in which they can win a full-ride scholarship to one of the state’s colleges or universities.

Vaccination rates had been dropping for several weeks before Gov. Mike DeWine, the Republican governor of Ohio, announced the lotteries. Since then, rates of vaccination have increased by 94 percent among 16- and 17- year-olds, 46 percent among 18- and 19-year-olds and 55 percent among Ohioans between the ages of 20 and 49.

Ohio is using federal pandemic aid to provide its lottery prizes.

Other states are following Ohio’s example. Oregon and Colorado have announced million-dollar lotteries for the vaccinated, and California will hold lotteries with prizes of $50,000 and $1.5 million. Maryland’s lotteries will have prizes of $40,000 to $400,000, and Delaware will offer a variety of prizes in its lotteries, including $5,000 in cash, college scholarships and free vacations at in-state sites.

New Jersey will also have a drawing vaccinated people can enter, but the winner just gets to have dinner with Gov. Phil Murray. Vaccinated residents can also receive free passes to state parks.

Minnesota is offering free passes to state parks for the vaccinated, as well as free fishing licenses. Free fishing licenses are also available in Maine, as are free hunting licenses. West Virginia is offering anyone who is vaccinated a savings bond worth $100.

Iowa’s version of high-profile incentives to encourage vaccination came on April 21, when Gov. Reynolds announced Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg would be getting vaccinated the following day in Sioux City. Reynolds promised that along with Gregg, there would be celebrities getting vaccinated, and encouraged everyone in the area to do likewise. The one celebrity who was attended the vaccine clinic in Sioux City that day was former Hawkeye and NFL player Dallas Clark.

In April, Gov. Reynolds announced a goal of having 65 percent of eligible Iowans vaccinated by the end of May. According to data available from the Iowa Department of Public Health, approximately 44 percent of eligible Iowans were vaccinated at the end of May.

It seems unlikely the governor will approve any large incentive programs to encourage Iowans to get vaccinated. Appearing on Fox News on Thursday, Reynolds declared “the emergency is over” regarding COVID-19 in Iowa.

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