Future Tense

Beer, Crawfish, Baseball Tickets, and Other New COVID-19 Vaccine Freebies

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio talks with various sitting patients underneath a large model of a blue whale.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio talks with just COVID-19 vaccinated patients as he tours the vaccination site at the American Museum of Natural History on April 23. Richard Drew-Pool/Getty Images

Beer. Baseball. Coney Island hot dogs. More beer. It sounds like a to-do list for the Fourth of July, but now all these items have something new in common: they are freebies being offered to those willing to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Recent polling from the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that only 11 percent of unvaccinated American adults say they definitely will get the shot. With CDC statistics from Tuesday showing that only 44.7 percent of American adults have been fully vaccinated and only 58.5 percent of adults have received one dose, one must ask: How is Biden going to get to his goal of 70 percent by July Fourth?

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Well, a little bit of American ingenuity is attempting to come to the rescue. Several companies and state governments have decided to help speed up the immunization process by offering perks for those already vaccinated and those looking to be so.

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Krispy Kreme has been offering a free glazed donut a day to vaccinated customers for more than a month. Major office supply stores—Staples, Office Depot, and Office Max—are ready to laminate your vaccine card gratis. Major League Baseball is getting in on the action too: Both the Mets and Yankees are offering free tickets to anyone who gets vaccinated at their stadiums, and the Cleveland baseball team is offering discounts on upper-level seating. The American Museum of Natural History is offering the unrivaled opportunity to get inoculated under a giant blue whale with four free museum tickets to boot. In Connecticut, New Jersey, and Washington D.C. the governments is teaming up with establishments to provide free drinks—did somebody raise a toast to immunity yet? On the more unique side, the New Orleans city council is collaborating with local business incubator Propeller and NOLA restaurant Cajun Seafood to provide a free pound of crawfish for anyone who shows up to their vaccination event. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate vaccination than an outdoors Cajun crawfish boil feast.

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But the question remains, will these incentives work to bring America closer to herd immunity? And if so, by how much?

Eric Orlando, the executive director of the Brewers Guild of New Jersey, says that its Shot and a Beer initiative, launched in conjunction with the state’s Governor’s Office, has already had some success. As part of the program, laws banning the giveaways of beer and alcoholic beverages have been suspended.

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Roughly 75 percent of the 18 breweries in the BGNJ have joined the program, which is running from May 7 to May 31 to give a free beer to any New Jerseyan who receives their first vaccine dose this month and presents their vaccine card at participating locations. Orlando estimates that Guild breweries gave out somewhere between 100-200 free beers over the first weekend of the program. Orlando thinks “there could be two to three times that amount … with the expansion of the program to other types of craft beverage manufacturers.” He furthered that “now that restaurants and bars can sign up to participate that could exponentially increase.”

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Breweries are providing the beer themselves, with no cost to taxpayers or the government. According to Orlando, brewers were moved to join the program both because of their belief in protecting the public health and the opportunity to speed up the re-opening process—bringing back renewed economic opportunities for business across the state of New Jersey.

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New Jersey is not the only state getting creative to increase vaccination rates. West Virginia is offering a $100 savings bond to any resident ages 16-35 who gets the shot. Maryland’s Gov. Larry Hogan recently released a plan to offer similar financial incentives to state employees who elect to receive a vaccine.

And if you need a designated driver to ferry you home after a complimentary beverage or a chauffeur to your nearby vaccination site: Never fear—Uber and Lyft are offering free rides to vaccination sites until the Fourth of July. Let’s raise a pint to that.

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society.

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