AUGUSTA, Maine — More than 5,300 Mainers claimed rewards under the state’s COVID-19 vaccine incentive program in May, but the total represented less than 15 percent of the eligible adults vaccinated during that period.
State health officials still said Wednesday that they were happy with the program and were exploring other ways to incentivize people to get the vaccine as roughly 350,000 eligible Mainers aged 12 and older remain unvaccinated, according to federal data.
The “Your Shot to Get Outdoors” program allowed people aged 18 and older who got their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine between May 11 and May 31 to claim one of several rewards, ranging from a $20 L.L. Bean gift card to a hunting or fishing license. It aimed to woo young adults to get shots as the rate of newly vaccinated people in Maine was slowing.
In total, 5,365 people claimed incentives under the program, well short of the 40,000 rewards that were made available when Gov. Janet Mills announced the initiative. More than 40,000 Maine adults got their first vaccine dose during that time frame, according to a Bangor Daily News analysis of state vaccination data. Another 18,000 children between the ages of 12 and 15 got vaccinated in May but were not eligible for the program.
Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said the state was pleased with the program, noting that three-quarters of people who claimed rewards were under the age of 50. She said the state also saw higher uptake rates in areas such as Aroostook and Kennebec counties, where vaccination rates had been lower.
L.L. Bean gift cards remained the most popular reward, Lambrew said, with 2,280 people claiming them, followed by fishing licenses claimed by 1,344 people.
Many states have launched similar incentive programs, including several — led by Ohio — that have held cash lotteries for vaccinated people. Lambrew said Maine was considering what other steps could be taken to encourage unvaccinated people to get the vaccine in the future, but did not have any firm plans for another program.
“We are looking at what other options are out there,” she said. “We have a natural experiment going on across the nation with different types of incentives or rewards, even lotteries that are being offered to people and so we’re taking a good hard look at all that evidence, and we’ll see what — if anything — we announce.”