MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Just more than half of Americans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. As the Biden administration pushes for herd immunity, it issued a challenge to mayors across the country to see which city can boost its vaccinations rate the most. Mesa mayor John Giles was the first Arizona mayor to join the challenge.
"This is really an educational campaign to hopefully address issues that people might have, any misgivings they might have,” Giles said. Mesa’s COVID vaccination rate is pretty much on par with the state’s – still less than 50%. Giles wants to move that along faster during what the White House calls a Month of Action.
“We've had drive-through vaccinations, we've had walk-through vaccinations, we've had take-it-to-the-streets vaccinations. We'll continue to do all of those things,” Giles said. Mesa firefighters have even been going to corner stores looking for people who haven’t had a chance to get the shot. They’ve given more than 65,000 doses during the pandemic. “I would be happy to throw down a challenge to the other mayors in the community,” Giles said. “I'm confident in my community and in our ability to respond when the chips are down."
Mayors Corey Woods of Tempe and Kate Gallego of Phoenix are also among the almost 100 mayors around the country who joined the challenge. While competitions like these tend to get elected and health officials pretty fired up about the vaccinations, some researchers say these types of contests will really only work on certain groups.
“In all honesty we don't really know if competitions, lotteries, free beers, fishing licenses, really do get people to get vaccinated,” said Art Caplan, director of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU’s School of Medicine.
He says data shows it’s unlikely that competitions will sway people who were already anti-vaccination before the pandemic. “Some folks who are kind of hesitant, or maybe a little bit lazy, even, and are saying, 'I can't get over there to the drive-through or wherever I have to go' -- they may be tipped over to do it," he said.
As a question of ethics, though, Caplan says he’s in favor of the idea – even if it only boosts the rate by 5 or 10%. Competitions create a positive buzz and get people talking about vaccination, which can fight complacency. “I don't think it's wrong; it's just frustrating that we can't get people to do the right thing just because it's the right thing," he said.
Caplan thinks we’re probably getting close to the point where more and more companies and industries move to start mandated vaccines to get us to herd immunity.