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White House Announces New Perks and Programs to Encourage COVID Vaccination

vaccines.gov Joe Biden

Drew Angerer / Staff / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • The White House is teaming up with corporations to offer perks and discounts in order to encourage COVID vaccination.
  • Additional initiatives from the Biden administration make it easier to find a vaccine in your area and even find the specific brand you want.
  • While perks may help encourage vaccination, improving access and convenience is of the utmost importance, since many people cannot afford to miss work to get a vaccine.

Will 20% off a shopping trip at CVS convince some people to also get a COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy? What about $5 off at Target or a free Uber or Lyft ride to a vaccine site? 

Those are just some of the incentives that the White House and some U.S. corporations announced recently in an effort to boost vaccination rates. There are currently more than 117 million fully vaccinated individuals in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

During a briefing last week, Andy Slavitt, White House senior advisor for COVID-19 response, told reporters that the President’s goal is to increase the number of fully vaccinated people to 160 million by July 4th.

Slavitt said the administration is “working with major businesses to provide special deals and promotions for those who get vaccinated.” The deals are generally not retroactive for people already vaccinated. Many last only through the month of May. They include, according to the White House: 

  • 10% off a grocery bill at Albertsons and Safeway after vaccination at either store
  • A $5 coupon at Target, if you are vaccinated at a CVS pharmacy inside Target 
  • A free post-vaccine healthy snack or beverage at Vitamin Shoppe, with proof of vaccine

Making Access as Easy as Possible

In addition to offering perks for vaccination, the administration is doubling down on making vaccines available to anyone, anywhere. On Tuesday, May 11, President Biden announced a slew of initiatives, including:

  • Ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber will provide free rides to anyone going to get vaccinated. Riders can use the app for one of the rideshare services and follow directions to redeem their free ride to and from a nearby vaccination site. Uber users can also donate a ride to someone in need. The feature will launch in the next two weeks and run until July 4.
  • Sports leagues like the NFL, MLB, MLS, and NASCAR will offer in-stadium vaccination programs, along with perks like ticket offers and discounts on merchandise.
  • Community colleges—often located within the heart of towns and cities—will host vaccination sites for students, staff, and local communities during May and June.

Booking Appointments Gets Easier Too

According to the White House COVID Response Team, people can text their ZIP code to GETVAX (438829) for three locations near them with vaccine in stock. To receive the information in Spanish, people can text their ZIP code to VACUNA (822862).

To receive the same information via phone call and for help making appointments, people can now call a COVID-19 Vaccination Assistance Hotline at 1-800-232-0233.

Additional Barriers to Access

People truly fearful or distrusting of the vaccine, of course, may not find a $5 discount coupon or a free Uber ride enough incentive to get their shot. But public health experts think that for at least some people who remain unvaccinated, the issue is not hesitancy, but rather missing work or family obligations for a vaccine appointment, twice. For some, this is not just an inconvenience, but an impossibility.

“Many people have no idea of their schedule in the week ahead, yet they’re being asked to commit an hour or several to getting the shot on a day when they may have to work or care for kids and deal with a myriad other things,” said Ashish Jha, MD, MPH, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, during an April call with reporters. “My second shot was scheduled on an impossibly busy day, but because I’m the dean of a school, I could move my appointments around to accommodate the vaccine slot.”

Richard Seidman, MD, MPH, chief medical officer of LA Care Health Plan, a Medicaid plan that covers more than two million low-income individuals in Los Angeles, says the healthcare provider, under Medicaid rules, has provided free transportation for about 1,000 people to get their vaccines. “But transportation is not the only barrier,” Seidman tells Verywell. “Many people who are unemployed and looking for work, or trying to stave off eviction, just haven’t put the vaccine high on their list because of so many competing concerns.”

Easier access, such as walk-in appointments rather than scheduling weeks in advance, can make a difference for some, Seidman says.

What This Means For You

If you’re not vaccinated yet, several new initiatives are making it easier to book and get to an appointment. To explore your options, consider starting by sending a text. You can text your zip code to GETVAX (438829) to see nearby locations with available vaccine supply right now.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States. Updated May 12, 2021.