City identifies X factor to overcome vaccine hesitancy: free beer

·2 min read
<span>Photograph: Dan Grytsku/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Dan Grytsku/Alamy

A micro-brewery in Buffalo, New York, has been offering free beer to encourage vaccine-hesitant customers to visit pop-up vaccination clinics next to its taprooms – and the program has been a roaring success.

The scheme, a hook-up between Erie county health department and two local breweries, comes as many regions across the US are seeing sharp declines in vaccine demand.

Under the plan, brewery patrons are offered a Moderna vaccine shot with a free pint glass and coupon for the vaccinated person’s drink of choice. A second drink comes with the second shot four weeks later.

“Here’s a good incentive,” the Erie county executive Mark Poloncarz told the Buffalo News last week. “If this doesn’t work, I don’t know what will.”

Poloncarz showed a picture of Homer Simpson with a beer bottle. “Help get on the vaccine train, and if it takes a beer to do it, that’s OK,” he said. “This is Buffalo. We love our beer.”

Hours after Erie county’s Shot and a Chaser program got under way at Resurgence Brewing Company on Saturday, about 100 people had been vaccinated.

“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.”

The program arrives as health officials are actively considering a variety of incentives to raise vaccination rates in an effort to achieve herd immunity against Covid-19, a level of mass-immunization that national health tsars warn does not currently appear achievable.

Last week, Dr Anthony Fauci, the chief White House medical adviser, said he had abandoned “this mystical level of herd immunity”, a notion of collective disease resistance that could come when about 70% of the population has been inoculated.

Declining demand for Covid-19 vaccines has caused states across the country to refuse their full allocations of doses from the federal government, despite concerted efforts to raise national take-up rates.

Reduced demand, which is contributing to a growing stockpile of doses, comes as nearly 46% of the US population has received at least one dose of a two-shot vaccine and about 34% are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

Poloncarz said he did not expect the beer program to solve the herd immunity issue.

“But if it gets another 200 people vaccinated today who otherwise would not have, that’s 200 more people that are going to be protected from Covid-19,” he said, “and 200 less people we need to get to eventually reach herd immunity. And that’s the important thing.”

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