Pounds of king crab and halibut; all-terrain vehicles and snowmachines; gallons of heating oil and gasoline — those are some examples of Alaskan ways to motivate people to get a Covid-19 vaccine.
The state Department of Health and Social Services granted $1 million to the Alaska Chamber, which in turn distributed the money to chambers of commerce across the state to fund local incentive programs aimed to encourage people who consider getting vaccinated.
Tribal governments, local health officials and businesses also stepped up with funding and creative incentives.
While Alaska prizes may not be as “in-the-pan flashy as in some other states” that offer million-dollars giveaways, “there is some really cool stuff happening on the local level,” said state Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink last week. Zink listed WiFi grills, pounds of salmon and trips to Hawaii as a few examples of creative Alaskan incentives.
On St. Paul Island, fully vaccinated people have a choice of a few fun options; they can win at a drawing on July 4 and at the end of the year. Tribal government offered two Honda four-wheeler ATVs, and the city put forward 20 vouchers for 50 gallons of home heating fuel and 20 vouchers for 15 gallons of gasoline, according to the drawing flyer.
During the same drawing, up to 20 people can win 10 pounds of Bristol Red Bay king crab or halibut, offered by the Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association. Ravn Alaska offered round-trip tickets to Anchorage.
A Lake Hood getaway for two is another option for fully vaccinated
people on St. Paul Island. Tanadgusix Corporation came up with a trip that includes flight tickets, accommodations and a meal for those who win.
In other places in Alaska, the Norton Sound Health Corporation that serves the Inupiat, Siberian Yup’ik and Yu’pik people of the Bering Strait region has given away prizes for vaccinations earlier this spring, public relations manager Reba Lean wrote in a press release. The prizes included airline tickets anywhere in the U.S., money to buy a four-wheeler, $500 for groceries or fuel, as well as $100 cash prizes drawn weekly.
Local chambers choose the best way to spend the DHSS grant, depending on the needs they see in their communities, explained the president of the Alaska Chamber, Kati Capozzi.
The options range from drums of gasoline and Alaska Airlines miles to various gift cards and cash prizes, said Tiffany Albert, director of communications at the Alaska Chamber.
Many of the initiatives both help motivate people who are considering getting vaccinated and stimulate the local economy by “supporting local businesses, promoting local businesses and having this view that are really locally driven,” Zink said.
For example, in Fairbanks, the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce decided to use $80,000 it received to purchase $20 gift cards from its member businesses.
Similarly, in Homer, South Peninsula Hospital Employee Health Center offers $40 incentives for first or second vaccine doses and weekly drawings of $100 and $500 gift cards usable at more than 75 Homer businesses, said Jenny Carroll, communications coordinator for the city.
“The idea is keeping the money local,” Carroll said.
In Juneau, the prizes include $20 gift cards as well a chance to win one of five $1,000 cash drawings, according to the City and Borough of Juneau website.
The weekly drawings help sustain consistent interest in vaccinations, Capozzi explained.
Meanwhile in Palmer, the incentives support not only health and economy but local history as well. The Greater Palmer Chamber of Commerce created a gift card in local currency called bingles. Back in 1935, bingles were used as a currency in the experimental farming community Matanuska Valley Colony. Families came to the colony from other states, received parcels of land and created their own money to keep the economy running during the Great Depression, explained Randi Bernier, office coordinator for the Chamber.
Today, the Palmer Chamber of Commerce decided to revitalize bingles and created a bingles gift card that can be spent in local business, ranging from restaurants such as Turkey Red to retailers and truck lining shops.
“Each community chooses the best way to support their constituencies,” Capozzi said.
Contact staff writer Alena Naiden at 459-7587. Follow her at twitter.com/FDNMlocal.