Vaccines for the COVID-19 virus have been available for about six months now, and it would at least appear as if it is helping to cut down the number of cases across the country.

I understand the desire to push a vaccine in an effort to fight against a virus, especially one with such massive effects on the world. I also understand receiving any kind of medication can be a personal issue. People want to know of any side effects, especially if it is an optional situation.

I decided to get the vaccine. Outside of some muscle pain near the injection site during both doses, I had a slight headache the morning after receiving the second dose. That was my experience. I know it isn’t the same for everyone, and I’m not relaying this as an attempt to convince anyone.

I know people who have decided against getting the vaccine. I’m not judging them. It’s their choice.

I do, however, have an issue with governments trying to incentive their citizens to get the vaccine. State and federal officials have presented science-based information on the vaccine, then wrapped it up with patriotism. When they still weren’t seeing the numbers they hoped for, the went for another option: incentives, also known as legal bribery.

West Virginia launched its incentive program by targeting the state’s younger residents, offering the choice of a gift card or savings bond to those age 16 to 35. Gov. Jim Justice announced he intended to use funds remaining from the 2020 federal COVID relief program to cover the costs.

Ohio opted to offer five drawings for $1 million or a college scholarship. That grabbed a lot of media attention across the country.

Because this is obviously a competition, Justice upped the ante recently and announced the opportunity for all West Virginians receiving the vaccine to win a variety of prizes, including cash, scholarships, hunting and fishing licenses, trips to a state park, trucks and guns. For whatever reason, he also has decided to use his dog as a mascot for the campaign because, if we won’t do it for ourselves, we’ll obviously do it for a dog we’ll most likely never meet.

We’re not alone, of course. Axios has chronicled some of the many incentives being offered across the country. California has offered a variety of cash prizes. Colorado’s plan is similar to Ohio, with a five-week sweepstakes to award five people $1 million each. Delaware has limited their offer to those vaccinated between May 25 and June 29, with a chance for cash, vacation packages and free tolls.

In Illinois, the governor announced a deal with Six Flags Great America for 50,000 free tickets to the amusement park. Maine offered a set number of fishing and hunting licenses for those receiving at least one dose by the end of May.

New Jersey’s prizes include a chance for a dinner with their governor and first lady.

I’ve also heard of some instances where alcohol, meals and even groceries were put on the line.

Any kind of medical decision should include a discussion with a medical professional. Politicians should stay out of it (unless they happen to be a medical doctor) and we shouldn’t need to be offered cash or prizes as part of the decision.

Here’s the question…when it comes time for a booster (because you know one will be needed) will the states continue to offer incentives? What about for our yearly flu shot? We’re setting an expensive precedent here.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)



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