Arkansas Officials Admit COVID Vaccine Incentive Program Is Not Working


Wednesday, June 30th 2021, 11:13 am
By: CBS News


Arkansas' COVID-19 vaccine incentive program is not working, the state's governor admitted this week. Less than a month ago, the state began giving lottery tickets and Game & Fish Commission gift certificates away to everyone who received a vaccine, CBS Little Rock affiliate KTHV reports.

However, the giveaways did little to convince people to get a shot. Less than 40% of the state's eligible residents have received the vaccine, Governor Asa Hutchinson said during a press conference. 

"We're past the prime," Hutchinson said. "It's no longer getting the results that we want, and so it will be wound down."

While a decrease in vaccination rate was expected as more people received their shots, the governor said "the trends have been down somewhat."

However, the low rate of vaccinations is what sparked the idea for the incentives. Several other states including New York, Maryland and Oregon have introduced similar programs, and many private companies have offered incentives as well.

In Ohio, which had a lottery for vaccinated adults and a scholarship lottery for vaccinated teens, there was a 40% increase in vaccinations over 10 days. But a month later, the vaccination rate dropped lower than it was before the incentive was announced, according to Politico. Similarly, North Carolina only saw a 1% increase in vaccinations after it announced a lottery.

"Ohio, which probably had one of the most successful incentive programs, they canceled theirs," Hutchinson said. 

Colonel Robert Ator, who runs the incentive program for Arkansas, agreed with the governor. "From a programmatic standpoint, we're doing exceedingly well," Ator said. "I mean, by every measurable standard, except for the percentage of Arkansans who have been vaccinated."

"Coming from a military background like myself, you know, I have the resources and the ammunition to make this fight," he said. "We're just not getting it out."

Ator said community engagement is one part of the solution. According to the state's Department of Health, 989,279 adults are full immunized.

The state has reported 348,699 total COVID-19 cases, and currently has 3,365 active cases; 196 new cases were reported between Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Hutchinson said nearly 91% of the current COVID-19 cases in the state involve people who are not fully vaccinated, "CBS This Morning" lead national correspondent David Begnaud reports.