Editorial: From 'incentives' to mandates, steps to raise vaccination rates must not be delayed
We can't particularly argue with the idea of bribing people to get their COVID-19 vaccinations.
Entry into a state lottery, Lollapalooza tickets, free admission to Six Flags Great America, gift cards, beers, doughnuts -- it's almost enough to make some wish they could get vaccinated over and over again, while raising the hackles of some whose jabs months ago went unrewarded.
If you're one of the latter, we sympathize.
But with the immediate goal of ending this worldwide pandemic, the end justifies the means.
A higher vaccination rate in the community offers more potent protection for children 11 and under who can't yet get the shots and for the elderly and the chronically ill, whose bodies might mount a weaker response to the vaccine.
Fewer COVID-19 cases means fewer opportunities for the virus to mutate into a version that could evade vaccine protection and launch us right back into another COVID winter. So far, the vaccines approved in the U.S. -- Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson -- have been proven effective against variants, including the surging Delta variant.
If you can protect yourself and others from the more contagious and more virulent Delta virus while also scoring a free meal or amusement park admission, that's a win.
We're betting all that swag won't be enough to head off outbreaks like the one that has sickened nearly 100 people so far after it began in mid-June at a central Illinois camp for teens.
The pace of vaccinations is slowing, meaning we may be failing to take advantage of this summer's chance to quell the disease in the U.S. once and for all.
Where incentives don't work, vaccination requirements are in order, starting where it makes the most sense, such as for employees in health care settings, people working with children too young to be vaccinated, and those living in dorms and other group settings. Once cases are back on the upswing -- like in Missouri, the nation's current hot spot -- it's too late to duck under the protection of a vaccine that might take two shots and six weeks to be fully effective.
"If incentives won't work, reality will," said Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, bemoaning his own state's 34% vaccination rate as hospitalizations there rise.
So let's go with incentives.
The deadline to get into Illinois' first lottery drawing for people who've been vaccinated passed Wednesday, but there are more chances, with weekly drawings through Aug. 26. And even those who waited dutifully in line for shots months ago qualify.