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Many organizations have already announced incentives for employee vaccination. Some of these focus on reducing barriers to vaccination. Others reward getting vaccinated. Research and past experience suggest that well-designed incentive programs could have a positive impact on employee vaccination rates. Keep in mind, however, that an incentive that changes how one person behaves may not work for another. 

Focus first on lowering barriers to vaccination.

Organizations are making getting vaccinated easier for their employees. Many already provide paid time off so that employees can be vaccinated and recover, as needed. This provision is also required under OSHA/CMS guidelines on the White House vaccine mandate plan (i.e. federal employees/contractors, organizations with more than 100 employees, some health care settings). Many organizations also offer free transportation to vaccination sites or a free meal if vaccination occurs onsite. Some provide several hours of pay to cover childcare and transportation costs. Consider providing paid time off for boosters and for parents taking their children to get vaccinated, once those vaccines are approved. Reducing barriers sends the message that “Vaccination is important to our organization. We want to make it easier for you and your loved ones to get vaccinated if you want to.”


After addressing barriers, consider giving “swag.”

Offering swag, like t-shirts or water bottles, can be more effective than a cash reward. Some research studies find this to be true when encouraging people to do something they see as altruistic, like donating blood. The cash offer may turn a good-hearted act into a financial transaction, and suppress the altruistic motivation.


If you do offer swag, you might avoid overt vaccine messaging on the items. Some employees may not want to advertise to people outside of work that they were vaccinated. That said, a unique piece of swag could help employees signal that they are “doing good” for the organization by getting vaccinated.


People vary in their motivations to get vaccinated, just as they do in their sources of hesitancy. Swag may not motivate everyone, but it probably won’t have a downside, other than cost.

Developing Incentive Plans

Offering incentives to get vaccinated can catalyze a shift from 'intention' to 'action.' Just be careful that you don’t send the wrong message.

Employers Offer Range of Vaccination Incentives

Many employers are offering incentives to encourage vaccination. American Airlines and grocery chains (Kroger, Trader Joe’s, Publix, Lidl) are rewarding vaccination status. Employees who show that they have been vaccinated get cash or extra time off...


Align with existing wellness programs.

Tap into your organization’s wellness programs to make incentivizing vaccination easier. It also reinforces wellness-related motivations for getting vaccinated. If you have a wellness program that offers appropriate incentives, use it.

Connect your incentive program to your organization’s values.

Always communicate the reasons behind your vaccination incentives. Be sure to align the reasons with your organization’s values. Some organizations may make safety a priority. Others may stress service to clients, patients or customers. Still others may make employee health and wellness a priority. Build on the values you already communicate, and place your vaccination incentives within that context.


Make the administrative requirements and process as simple as possible for employees – and for Human Resources!

Use existing, familiar reporting procedures, wellness programs, and privacy protocols. For proof of vaccination, you can accept self reports or a photo of the vaccination card (But be aware of the reported increase in fake vaccination cards.) Tell employees how their vaccination information will be used and protected. Remember that vaccination tracking is evolving at organizational, local, state and federal levels. For transportation, consider contracting directly with a taxi company or ride-share provider. This makes receipts unnecessary. Adjusting benefit and payroll systems to accommodate changes can be frustrating. Spending time in advance to think them through is a worthwhile investment.


Make your incentives inclusive.

Some people will not be eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine because of health, disability, or religious reasons. To be inclusive of everyone in your workforce, offer ways for these people to get the incentive. You might reward them for helping with vaccination-related activities. 

Make incentives tangible and immediate.

To get the full effect of an incentive, you need people to expect the reward very soon after vaccination. A physical gift card, check, cash or shirt will have much more impact than, say, an extra $25 added to the next paycheck. Again, be conscious of possible trade-offs when you offer swag or cash.


Many people will need two shots to be fully vaccinated and additional boosters. If possible, reward each shot.

If you give cash or gift cards, get the amount right.

If an incentive is too small, it won’t be effective. But an incentive that is too large can also be problematic. It may signal that vaccination is unpleasant or risky enough to demand a high price. For most people, a cash or gift card incentive between $25 and $100 will be enough. This amount can prompt action without triggering deeper concerns.

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