Free rides and beer: Incentives are added to vaccine drive

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FILE - In this Tuesday, April 20, 2021, file photo, a man wearing a cannabis costume hands out marijuana cigarettes in New York during a "Joints for Jabs" event, where adults who showed their COVID-19 vaccination cards received a free joint. Free beer, pot and doughnuts. Savings bonds. A raffle ticket for a snowmobile. Places around the U.S. are offering incentives to try to energize the nations slowing vaccination drive and get reluctant Americans to roll up their sleeves. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Free beer, pot and doughnuts. Savings bonds. A chance to win an all-terrain vehicle. Places around the U.S. are offering incentives to try to energize the nation’s slowing vaccination drive and get Americans to roll up their sleeves.

These relatively small, mostly corporate, promotion efforts have been accompanied by more serious and far-reaching attempts by officials in cities such as Chicago, which is sending specially equipped buses into neighborhoods to deliver vaccines. Detroit is offering $50 to people who give others a ride to vaccination sites, and starting Monday will send workers to knock on every door in the city to help residents sign up for shots.

Public health officials say the efforts are crucial to reach people who haven't been immunized yet, whether because they are hesitant or because they have had trouble making an appointment or getting to a vaccination site.

“This is the way we put this pandemic in the rearview mirror and move on with our lives," said Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky’s public health commissioner.

Meanwhile, more activities are resuming around the U.S. as case numbers come down. Disneyland is set to open Friday after being closed for over a year, while Indianapolis is planning to welcome 135,000 spectators for the Indy 500 at the end of May.

Still, rising hospitalizations and caseloads in the Pacific Northwest prompted Oregon's governor to impose restrictions in several counties, and her Washington counterpart was expected to follow suit.

Demand for vaccines has started to fall around the country, something health officials expected would happen once the most vulnerable and most eager to get the shot had the opportunity to do so. Now the vaccination drive is moving into a new, more targeted phase.

“This will be much more of an intense ground game where we have to focus on smaller events, more tailored to address the needs and concerns of focused communities," Stack said.