The impact of COVID vaccine incentives in Michigan: Are some more successful than others?

Posted at 2:36 PM, Jul 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-23 14:36:27-04

(WXYZ) — More cash is being offered as a way of encouraging COVID-19 vaccinations here in Michigan with a local company now taking a bold new step.

Their initiative is being called “cutting edge" by workers who support thousands in bonus money in exchange for a high rate of shots in arms.

The metro Detroit company says employee safety a top priority, and they’ve challenged their workforce to reach a difficult goal with major reward as motivation.

“It’s an ambitious goal. Our CEO developed a vaccination incentive program,” said Steve LaBodie with UAW Local 600.

Steve LaBodie is among roughly 1,100 workers at Cleveland Cliffs Steel Co. at the Ford Rouge plant in Dearborn.

He says his company has set a goal of the majority of employees getting fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by August 21st with a sizable bonus attached.

"Anything up to 74% participation, it’s $200 for each person vaccinated. In the range between 75-84%, it’s $1,500. At levels above 85% it’s $3,000,” said LaBodie.

It's an incentive he says the company is excited about and already working towards.

For comparison, in neighboring Oakland County, spokesman Bill Mullan mentioned a smaller government incentive that has also made an impact.

"We consider the program successful,” he said.

Successful to the tune of roughly a 70% rate of first dose vaccinations, far ahead of the numbers statewide.

"You have at least 1,100 people who got vaccinated because of gift cards since June 24th,” said Mullan.

But not everyone agrees cash incentives work. While Ohio’s launch of a vaccine lottery helped move the needle forward, critics of Michigan's "MI Shot to Win Sweepstakes" point to a statewide first dose number of roughly 63-percent and a much lower number fully vaccinated.

"The overall fully vaccinated rate hasn’t gone up that much ... folks wanted a game changer or moving the needle in a huge way. Any new person that gets a shot in the arm and gets that vaccine is moving in the right direction,” said Kerry Ebersole Singh, director of Protect Michigan Commission.

Whereas some organizations like Henry Ford Hospital will require employees to get the vaccine, David Strubler, professor of human resources at Oakland University, says incentives don’t guarantee success. But success can also can been seen in different ways.

"Even as if it’s not 85% they can still show OSHA & EEOC they have done their due diligence,” said Strubler.

For LaBodie, the incentive is a welcome reward and comes in the spirit of unity. It has been endorsed by their UAW.

"You are trying to appeal to them instead of forcing it down their throat. You have to have hope that means something and I know for a fact it’s changed a few people’s minds because every day we get calls asking how we’re doing and what the numbers are,” said LaBodie.