This Bud’s for you, and anyone else ready to roll up their sleeve to put the pandemic behind them.
The White House’s new partnership with Anheuser-Busch offering free beers if the country reaches its goal of getting 70% of adults at least one Covid-19 vaccine shot by July 4 — almost Prohibition in reverse — is more than a gimmick. It’s a headline that heralds a widening, more micro-targeted approach to getting skeptical Americans vaccinated against Covid-19 and a shift from an approach that saw mass vaccination sites in stadiums earlier this year. It’s also a sign of growing concern about slowing inoculation rates, fears that millions of unprotected Americans could be vulnerable to new viral spikes in the fall and a desire to preserve the miracle wrought by vaccines.
After several days in which Dr. Anthony Fauci’s just-released emails painted a picture of foreboding at the beginning of the crisis last year, President Joe Biden conjured up the prospect of a Covid-free future at the White House. “Get a shot and have a beer. Free beer for everyone 21 years or over to celebrate the independence from the virus,” he said. There’s more than free booze on offer from the teetotaler Biden and his web of private-sector partnerships announced on Wednesday to convince skeptics to get vaccinated. Go for a trim in a Black-owned barbershop — traditional community hubs — and a Covid-19 vaccine comes at no extra cost. Parents who get the shots can get free child care while they’re inoculated. Cities will compete to grow vaccination rates. Employers can cash in tax credits if they let workers feeling side effects from the vaccine take time off.
And Vice President Kamala Harris is adding to her growing portfolio of intractable issues, which includes voting rights and stemming the stream of humanity approaching the US southern border, by launching a national vaccine tour. The raft of incentives builds on the success of states like Ohio that saw vaccine rates improve when they adopted strategies like million-dollar lotteries for those that had their injections. Officials always knew that the country would reach a point where the supply of once-scarce shots would outstrip the demand. The fact that so many people are now at least partially protected, and the virus has by consequence ebbed, may mean that latecomers see less need to get inoculated.