Lotteries, Doughnuts, Joints: The Weird Incentives to Get People Vaccinated

Puff, puff, vaxxed. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Demand for vaccines has started to fall around the country, as those most eager to get the shots have already been inoculated. Now the vaccination drive is moving into a more targeted phase, with health officials looking at specific ways to entice the reluctant to get vaxxed. While the pool of people who have expressed hesitation about being vaccinated has shrunk, places around the U.S. have turned to a weird and wonderful range of incentives to try to energize the nation’s slowing vaccination drive. Here are a few:

Lottery Prizes

Maryland, New York, and Ohio are offering a dedicated lottery for vaccinated residents.

Starting next Tuesday, the Maryland lottery will randomly select a vaccinated Marylander for a $40,000 prize every single day for 40 days, Maryland’s governor announced this week. New Yorkers who get vaccinated next week will be given a lottery ticket with a chance to win as much as $5 million. Ohio governor Mike DeWine was the first state leader to announce lottery drawings in a bid to get more people inoculated. The Buckeye State will hold five drawings with a prize of $1 million each. Its Vax-a Million program also offers full-ride college scholarships to random participants.

On Wednesday, the first million-dollar winner and scholarship recipients were announced.

In a New York Times opinion piece, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine pronounced his state’s approach a massive success. “Since the announcement,” he wrote, “available data suggests that shots are up 49 percent among people ages 16 and over in Ohio and have increased 36 percent among minorities and 65 percent among Ohioans living in rural areas.”

Free Dances at Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club

Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club in Las Vegas will be vaxxing residents for three hours on Friday. The Hustler Club says it will give customers who get jabbed at the local strip club a special platinum membership card, a free bottle on the house, dances from a “vaccinated entertainer,” and other perks.

Dinner With New Jersey’s Governor

New Jersey residents who have received at least one COVID-19 shot since December can enter to win dinner with Governor Phil Murphy. The winner will have the choice between dinner at the Drumthwacket mansion, or the governor’s beach home on Island Beach State Park.

Free Doughnuts

Krispy Kreme announced a sweet incentive this spring to help boost vaccinations: one free glazed doughnut to anyone who goes to a participating Krispy Kreme with proof of their shot. It will allow for “one redemption per guest per day” so you could, in theory, get a free doughnut every day for the rest of the year — if you’re vaccinated. Some brave souls have taken on this challenge. “The first time I went to get the doughnut, they actually gave me more than one, so I skipped the next day. I didn’t want to seem greedy,” Joe Caramagna told Slate. “So far, I’ve gotten 31 free doughnuts, and I’m on my 40th day of being vaccinated.”

Selfie With the Museum of Natural History Whale

The New York City–run site at the American Museum of Natural History’s Milstein Hall of Ocean Life offers 1,000 shots per day to eligible residents. While they’re getting inoculated, vaccine hopefuls can take in the ocean life exhibits beneath the institution’s iconic 94-foot-long model of a blue whale, which now has a bandage on its side. “Someone said they read about it in the papers, and the minute they saw it, they said, ‘I’m going to go there to get vaccinated,’” Mayor Bill de Blasio said last month, according to Gothamist. “The second they saw you could get vaccinated beneath the blue whale they said: ‘I’m going to do that. I’m dropping everything.”


On April 20, the high holy day for marijuana smokers, activist groups in Washington, D.C., and New York City offered joints to people outside vaccination centers. Megan Krest, a person waiting in line for the joint giveaway in D.C. told Reuters, “I think it’s a really cool way for people to, you know, incentivize getting their vaccine.”

Rounds at a gun range

A mobile vaccination site at a sprawling shooting and recreation complex in Southern Illinois offered 100 free target rounds for trap, skeet, or sporting clay shooting earlier this month. “These vaccines are incredibly effective and protective for the person who gets them, but just as important, they make the whole community safer,” Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker said in a press release.

Lotteries, Doughnuts, Joints: The Weird Vaccine Incentives