Why Utah doesn’t have a vaccine incentive yet

Coronavirus Updates

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – After teasing an incentive a couple of weeks ago that would motivate vaccine-hesitant Utahns to get their shots in the fight against COVID-19, Governor Spencer J. Cox announced on Thursday the developments that have been made in the planning.

As of Thursday, no plan has solidified, with Cox saying if vaccination efforts continue, it may not be prudent to have an incentive program at all.

“It would be really great if we didn’t need any incentives at all,” Cox said to begin his explanation. “Hopefully not dying is a great incentive so we’ll continue to push those incentives for people and hopefully they’ll respond.”

Should Utah need to motivate its residents to get a vaccine, Cox and his leadership group will have to make an effective pitch to the state legislature. As the “purse string” holders to the budget and state spending, the legislature agreed to watch the vaccination efforts over the next few weeks before deciding to move forward or not with an incentive.

The efficacy and effectiveness of incentives in other states will also be examined, according to Cox.

Cox first made mention of a possible incentive during the last COVID-19 briefing on May 13, saying the state was looking into what would be most appealing to vaccine-hesitant people. Cox also said that he was crowdsourcing “out-of-the-box ideas” as incentives while mentioning programs in other states like Ohio, which will be conducting a million-dollar-raffle as motivation to get the vaccine.

After that briefing, Cox tweeted to clarify other comments he had made, specifically about the million-dollar raffle in Ohio, saying that he would be in favor of something like that in Utah. However, since lotteries and gambling are not sanctioned in the state, legislative approval would have to be made for an incentive raffle in Utah, which would be a one-time thing, according to Cox.

As for whether the state may be missing a window to get an incentive program rolling, Cox again said on Thursday it would depend on how the vaccination numbers go in the short term, adding that if there is no need to motivate folks to get the vaccine, there will be no incentive.

“We’re not going to do it unless it’s absolutely necessary,” Cox said, mentioning that Utah is a historically conservative state in terms of spending. “We do everything cautiously.”

When speaking on the possibility of an incentive program on May 13, Cox stated that state finances would not be an issue in developing a monetary prize of sorts.

“There is no amount of money that is too much to help us get an extra 5 or 10% of people vaccinated,” Cox said at that briefing two weeks ago.

Ultimately, state spending is in the hands of the legislature, and Cox said that a decision on whether an incentive will be developed will be made as the vaccination efforts continue.

“We’ll watch really close, see what’s working in other states, what’s not, what’s really made a statistical difference versus states that don’t have any incentives and we’ll go back to the legislature and see if there’s an appetite to do something if necessary.”

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