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U of M survey finds young people generally support COVID vaccine incentives, but also have ethical concerns

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A new University of Michigan study finds young people support using incentives to get people vaccinated against COVID.

Researchers asked more than 1,100 people, between 14 and 24 years old, about various incentives offered to young people to get a COVID vaccine, including college scholarships, cash payments and tickets for events.

82% of respondents said the incentives were a "good idea" or at least positive in some ways.

But despite their support, few of the adolescents and young adults surveyed took advantage of the incentive.

“I think it was a little surprising how few teens and young adults said that an incentive played a role in their covid vaccination decision,” said Caroline Hogan, a U of M researcher and lead author of the study, “especially since the poll responses aren’t linked to any identifying information.”

Another significant finding in the report was about one-in-four respondents suggested vaccine incentives were ethically “sketchy.” Some respondents likened incentives to “bribery”, created the “wrong motivation” to get vaccinated and decreased trust in the vaccine itself.

“It’s important to note that even before COVID, incentives had been used by insurers and employers and others to encourage healthy behaviors,” said Hogan.

Hogan said there are contexts where “a well-designed, well-considered incentive can be useful and ethical.”

The study was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.