AUGUSTA, Maine — Only a fraction of the Mainers who got their first COVID-19 vaccine claimed benefits in the first week of the state’s new incentive program, according to state data.
The “Your Shot to Get Outdoors” program aims to encourage Mainers to get the vaccine by allowing adults who get their first dose during May to claim rewards ranging from L.L. Bean gift cards to Sea Dogs tickets or a hunting license.
Nearly 25,000 Mainers got their first vaccine dose in the week after Gov. Janet Mills announced the initiative, an increase of about 6,300 compared with the previous week. But that difference was largely accounted for by children between the ages of 12 and 15 who got their first vaccine doses after they became eligible on May 11, the same day the incentive program was announced. Only adults aged 18 and older are eligible for the rewards.
In total, 1,739 people who got vaccinated had claimed benefits as of Wednesday, according to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, accounting for less than a fifth of adults who had received their doses since the initiative was announced. People eligible for a reward can still claim one online until May 31 by filling out an online form.
Among rewards claimed so far, L.L. Bean gift cards were easily the most popular choice, with more than 700 people selecting the $20 bonus. The state has offered to purchase up to 10,000 of the gift cards compared to 5,000 of the other benefits.
Maine DHHS spokesperson Jackie Farwell said the agency had set aside funding to purchase the rewards as they are claimed, adding that the total cost of the program to the state would not be known until it was over. She did not say how much the state has set aside.
Several other states have pursued similar incentive strategies to try to increase vaccine uptake, including Ohio, which attracted national attention for allowing people who got vaccinated to enter a lottery for $1 million.
Maine has among the highest vaccination rates of any state with nearly 64 percent of people aged 12 and older having received at least one dose, according to state data. But rates continue to vary widely by age group, with 79 percent of Mainers aged 50 or older having received at least one dose compared with only 53 percent percent of people between the ages of 20 and 49.
BDN writer Caitlin Andrews contributed to this report.