COVID-19 cases are falling around the country, and that’s worth celebrating. However, the pandemic isn’t over.

Herd immunity, which can be reached through a combination of vaccination and natural infection, remains a goal.

Vaccinating as many Americans as possible is an attainable way to reach that milestone, but it may take incentives.

Many people are hesitating to roll up their sleeves for the inoculating shot. Politicians, business leaders and schools should work together to overcome vaccine hesitancy, and the carrot is a better approach than the stick of government mandate.

Incentives should be put in place to tempt citizens who are on the fence.

When vaccines initially began rolling out around the country, demand far outstripped supply. In mid-April, the U.S. averaged around 3.4 million doses of vaccine per day. By the week of May 9, the average had fallen to 2.19 million doses per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number is continuing to drop. In many states, pharmacies and clinics are accepting walk-ins for COVID-19 vaccinations.

To bridge the gap more quickly between the number vaccinated and the number needed to reach herd immunity, leaders should start thinking creatively. Passing out lottery tickets that afford the opportunity of winning money at vaccine appointments could help encourage wary individuals to sign up for a shot. Schools working to vaccinate students could offer gift certificates or vouchers to cultural offerings like museums or concerts. States could dole out passes for camping facilities. Gift certificates to local eateries and breweries could be an option with the dual purposes of vaccination plus funneling customers back to businesses that need support.

Some states and localities have already started the incentive program. In West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice announced that the state would give young people $100 bonds if they got vaccinated. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has promised a weekly “lottery” for a $1 million prize and full college scholarships to convince more unvaccinated people to take the plunge.

There is a swatch of the population for whom an incentive would work, according to ongoing research at UCLA. That research indicates a third of unvaccinated people would be willing to roll up their sleeve in exchange for an incentive.

Cash or vouchers may nudge the reluctant toward inoculation and that will help make the country safer for all.

– Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Editorial Board