Writing prompt: What's North Carolina gotta give you to get a vaccine?
Other states are giving away french fries, free college tuition, and million dollar checks. What, then, should there be in North Carolina’s COVID shot swag bag?
You know when two cities’ sports teams meet in the playoffs, and the mayors of those cities make a friendly wager? If you know about this, you also know that the wagers are always stereotypical, innocuous, and dumb. (With one exception: In 2014, the cities of Cincinnati and Charlotte said the result of that season’s Bengals-Panthers game would determine, once and for all, which city was the true Queen City. The game ended in a 37-37 tie.) Five years ago, I chronicled the mayoral bets before a Panthers-Seahawks game, where then-mayor Jennifer Roberts tried to trash talk Seattle. She did it, like anyone who's spittin’ venom, via an awkwardly-phrased statement in a press release:
“Coach Rivera has the team prepared to defeat anyone standing in their path to the Super Bowl. Pete Carroll will be sleepless in Charlotte trying to develop a game plan to stop Cam Newton.”
Ha HA! Did you know your sweet Aunt Barb was a ghostwriter for the Charlotte mayor’s office? No? Well, golly gosh.
These bets are forgettable in every form except for one: They’re a window into what politicians think might be incentives for their commoners. In Charlotte’s case that year, Roberts offered up barbeque (sic) from Mac’s Speed Shop, beer from The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, and salted caramel brownies from Amelie’s French Bakery. Those items were offered up not so much Seattle’s benefit, but to demonstrate her situational awareness about incentives. She offered these things up because of their scarcity and their desirability. She knew that if you want someone to do something, offering up beer and brownies will probably get them to do it.
I say all of this because there’s been a lot of discussion over what might genuinely convince people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. To wit, we’ve moved from the “shots are scarce” phase to one where the supply is starting to outpace the demand. There is a lot of hesitancy out there right now for a bunch of reasons, which has states and politicians getting creative over how to get folks to get vaxxed up. West Virginia, the state with the fifth oldest population, is offering up $100 savings bonds to people who get shots, because this is what grandparents do. Ohio, however, is showing an extremely nuanced understanding of what motivates Ohioans. They’re turning the vaccination drive into a damn lottery:
This is a very small sample size, but my dad, an Ohioan and the world’s lowest-stakes occasional gambler, has talked for his entire life about what he’d do if he won the lottery. He and my mom are fully vaccinated, so any day now I’m gonna hear about what they’re gonna buy with their COVID cash.
Say, what’s New York City doing? This, uh, I guess:
For what it’s worth, Krispy Kreme, which is based in Winston-Salem, is giving away a free daily donut to anyone who brings in their vaccination card. But as a state, North Carolina has no blatant incentives program. No giveaway. No nuthin’. You mean I’m supposed to go out there and get a vaccine all on my own? For my own health? To protect the vulnerable in my community? To reopen more businesses? To allow all kids to go back to school? To end this pandemic sooner? To stop having to wear a mask? To be able to travel the world? I’m sorry, I thought this was America. You can’t MAKE me get a shot, but yes, I will gladly do it if you give me a beer, baseball tickets, or the chance to shoot a deer.
Also, yes, I do understand there are a lot of valid medical reasons why people cannot receive the vaccine, or might have a very hard time getting to a vaccination site. Forgive me. I’m rollin’ here.
So, dear Rabbit Hole readers, here is your writing prompt this week. Please reply to this email, or holler at me on Twitter or Facebook and tell me the best thing that the State of North Carolina could offer up to get holdouts to receive the vaccine. Next week, I will round up all of your replies, and, as a public service, forward them on to the governor’s office. I’m just trying to help. Roy’s busy. He doesn’t have time for a brainstorming session on what should go into your Pfizer, J&J, or Moderna swag bag. And, I’m begging you, be at least a little serious. Don’t say “barbecue!” or “sweet tea!” because those things are already plentiful and cheap and we all know how to get them already. Think of something that’s hard to attain. Something meaningful. Like, say, a Skip To The Front Of The Late Night Drive-Thru Line At Cook Out Card. Or, maybe, a raffle ticket for a fake recruiting visit to your home by Roy Williams, one where he’ll show up and say really nice things about your vertical leap and make knowing jokes with your parents. You know, stuff like that.
Or cash. Cash works too. I guess you could just name your price.
Anyway, put on your economist hat, get to thinking and writing, and I’ll talk to you next week.