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Opinion >  Column

Spin Control: Why is Washington so behind on vaccine freebies? Here’s some of the incentives it could offer

Syringes are filled with 0.05 mm of Moderna vaccine April 2 at the Spokane Arena.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Syringes are filled with 0.05 mm of Moderna vaccine April 2 at the Spokane Arena. (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

As a person who went through more than a month in early 2021 trying to get an appointment anywhere within 30 miles for a COVID vaccination, I confess to scratching my head at reports there is currently more vaccine than people willing to sit down and roll up their sleeves.

Some states now offer incentives, because apparently it’s not enough for some people to get a free shot to have a much reduced chance of getting a serious disease, and a miniscule chance of dying from it if you do contract it. One state is offering $100 savings bonds to persons 35 and under who get shots, and another is offering a free beer.

Washington has yet to offer any such incentive to boost its vaccination rate. Gov. Jay Inslee did have a few carrots in a recent set of rules, such as allowing outside venues like sports stadiums to increase capacity for vaccinated fans to 50% in sections specifically designed for them while keeping the non-vaccinated sections at 25%. Regular readers might recall that Spin Control suggested something similar a few weeks ago, although we’d be the first to admit the governor’s staff likely formulated the plan on their own and didn’t call for a consultation.

If they had, we’d have predicted – based on emails and phone calls about the column – a response like the one they got from Rep. Jim Walsh, an Aberdeen Republican, who called such a plan “an unconstitutional, illegal, and immoral system of state-imposed segregation.”

Although most segregation deals with things a person can’t change, like race, religion or ethnicity, Walsh or other opponents are free to question any perceived violation of the constitutional or biblical strictures. In the meantime, however, perhaps a better way to coax shots into arms would be for businesses to offer a variation of the ever popular Buy One, Get One, or BOGO offers. It could be labeled Get One, Get One, or GOGO.

The Spokane Indians might boost attendance by offering a free ticket to a game in August when a fan presents proof of vaccination when buying a ticket for a game in May. Such a GOGO is admittedly a risk because by August the team may be red hot and seats might be in demand. Then again, the Indians might be mired in the cellar and the team and its vendors would benefit from butts in the seats.

If requiring vaccinations to be on campus and setting up a vaxx-only section of the stands in Martin Stadium aren’t enough to get 100% of Washington State University students their shots, perhaps a coupon for free bottle opener that plays the Cougar fight song would seal the deal. For adult fans, the GOGO could be putting the vaxx section between the 40-yard lines, and the unvaxx section in the end zones.

When basketball season comes around, Gonzaga University – which so far is not requiring vaccinations – could boost their vaxx rate by offering a pass for fans to shoot baskets from three-point range in the Kennel or to have a picture taken hugging the cardboard cutout of a player of your choice in the stands. (I’m not so foolish as to suggest the Zags would give away tickets in exchange for getting the shot. After all, West Virginia is only giving away savings bonds worth $100.)

In some states with recreational marijuana laws, vaxx recipients are being offered a free joint or a free edible. Washington doesn’t allow such giveaways – and certainly isn’t willing to forego the tax revenue – but pot shops might offer a free bong or a box of Funyuns with the production as a GOGO to patrons who are either reluctant to get a shot or just keep forgetting to do it.

Budweiser has a drawing for a free round of Bud, which has a nice working class appeal to folks of a certain age. But for a broader Northwest sort of reach, the Spokane Hospitality Coalition could offer the newly vaccinated GOGO coupons for a free drink at any of the bars and restaurants in its membership. They could make it flexible enough to allow for a pint of piney IPA for the persnickety beer drinker, a glass of chilled crisp rose for a mom escaping the kids for a few hours or a hard seltzer for the Millennials and Gen Zers who seem to be lapping up great quantities of those concoctions of fizzy fruity water

Early in the vaccination process, Krispy Kreme announced it would give a free donut to any person with proof of vaccination. The shops aren’t keeping track, so in theory a person who lives near such a shop could stop by every day for a free donut for the next year, which raises the prospect of all of those virus antibodies coursing through ever-thickening arteries.

But Krispy Kreme shops are somewhat limited in Washington. For wider appeal, local bakeries might make a similar, albeit one-and-done, GOGO for some of their wares, like a Donut Parade maple bar, a Rocket Bakery bagel or a Great Harvest chocolate chip cookie. Local coffee shops might offer a free cup of java with the purchase of a muffin or scone, or an extra shot of espresso in your grande latte.

White Castle’s offer of a free burger isn’t much good in the Northwest, where it doesn’t have restaurants. But a local burger joint like Zip’s might see White Castle’s offer and raise it a Big Buster.

For those who love the Second Amendment, one of the gun rights groups could offer a ticket to a raffle for an AR-15 to anyone getting the shot. Or maybe a coupon for a clip of ammunition of choice at their favorite shooting range.

Shots for a shot. It has kind of a nice ring.

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