The benefits of getting vaccinated against Covid-19 — namely, protection against a dangerous virus — should be obvious by this stage in the pandemic.
If that isn’t sufficient motivation, consider the swag.
Businesses across the United States and beyond are offering free merchandise and other stuff to people who receive Covid shots. The perks include free rides, doughnuts, money, arcade tokens and even marijuana.
Experts in behavioral motivation say that offering incentives is not necessarily the most effective or cost-efficient way to increase vaccine uptake. But that hasn’t stopped the freebies from piling up.
In Cleveland, the Market Garden Brewery is offering 10-cent beers to the first 2021 people who show a Covid-19 vaccine certificate. “Yes, you read that right,” the brewery says on its website. “Ten Cents.”
At the Greenhouse of Walled Lake, a medical marijuana dispensary in Michigan, anyone 21 and over who gets a Covid vaccine can pick up a prerolled joint until the end of the month.
Chobani provides free yogurt at some vaccination sites. And Krispy Kreme said on Monday that for the rest of the year, it would give one glazed doughnut per day to anyone who provides proof of a Covid-19 vaccination.
As vaccinations accelerated across the United States, “We made the decision that said, ‘Hey, we can support the next act of joy,’ which is, if you come by, show us a vaccine card, get a doughnut any time, any day, every day if you choose to,” the company’s chief executive, Michael Tattersfield, told Fox News.
The Krispy Kreme initiative is no relation to the “vaccinated doughnuts” that were sold last month by a bakery in Germany, garnished with plastic syringes that dispense a sweet, lemony-ginger amuse-bouche. It also does not entitle vaccinated Americans to endless doughnuts, as Mr. Tattersfield seemed to imply in his Fox News interview — just one per day, as the company notes on its website.
In a promotion it is calling “Tokens for Poke’ns,” Up-Down, a chain of bars featuring vintage arcade games, is offering $5 in free tokens to guests who present a completed vaccination card. Up-Down, which has six locations in five Midwestern states, is extending the offer to guests who visit within three weeks of their final dose.
David Hayden, Up-Down’s communications manager, said he came up with the idea while sitting in an observation room after receiving his own vaccine.
“It’s something we anticipated for so long,” he said, adding that the token giveaway was a way of giving customers something else to look forward to after being vaccinated.
Cleveland Cinemas, a movie-theater chain in Ohio, is offering a free 44-ounce popcorn at two of its locations to anyone who presents a vaccination card through April 30.
To encourage younger people to get vaccinated, the city of Tel Aviv set up a mobile vaccination clinic at a bar last month, and offered free beer and shots of nonalcoholic peach juice to those who received a shot, The Times of Israel reported.
Presenting cards for so many promotions might cause some wear and tear. To protect the cards from damage, Staples is offering to laminate them at no charge after customers have received their final dose. The promotion runs through May 1.
Some vaccine perks flow from corporations to their employees. Tyson Foods, Trader Joe’s and others pay for the time it takes them to get vaccinated, while Kroger pays them a $100 bonus.
Other incentives target people in vulnerable groups. Uber, for instance, has agreed to provide 10 million free or discounted rides to seniors, essential workers and others in countries across North America, Europe and Asia to help them get to vaccination centers.
“Governments like these initiatives because they help them to get more vaccines in more arms,” said Chris Brummitt, a spokesman for the company in Singapore.
That may be true, but the science of motivating people to get vaccinated is complex.
“Behavioral nudges” that are based on scientific observations may be a more cost-effective way to persuade people to get vaccinated against Covid-19 than straight-up incentives, said Hengchen Dai, a professor of management at the University of California, Los Angeles.
In a recent study, Ms. Dai and her colleagues found that text messages could boost uptake of influenza vaccinations. The most effective texts were framed as reminders to get shots that were already reserved for the patient. They also resembled the kind of communication that patients expect to receive from health care providers.
Jon Bogard, a graduate student at U.C.L.A. who contributed to the study, said that policymakers should proceed with caution on incentives because they can sometimes backfire. One problem is that the campaigns are expensive, he said. Another is that people receiving shots could see a large incentive as a sign that “vaccines are riskier than they in fact are.”
A better alternative, Mr. Bogard said, could be handing out “low-personal-value, high-social-value” objects — like stickers and badges — that tap into a larger sense of “social motivation and accountability.”
There appears to be no shortage of such swag swirling around the world’s hospitals and vaccination clinics.
“Protected!” says a button that patients receive at a vaccination site in Hong Kong. It shows a cartoon syringe fist bumping a masked doctor.
At a minor-league baseball stadium in Hartford, Conn., people receiving shots can pick up an “I got my Covid-19 vaccination” sticker bearing the home team’s mascot, a goat.