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A little incentive

If it takes a reward of some kind to get a few more people to be vaccinated against COVID, I’m fine with that.

Could be yours

To increase the rate of vaccinations, the Harris County Commissioners Court approved giving incentives to citizens.

At Wednesday’s commissioners court meeting, the court authorized for up to $250,000 for gift cards, events and other incentive programs, to increase vaccine participation among Harris County citizens.

The money will come from the county’s Public Improvement Contingency fund.

“We desperately need these people to get vaccinated, particularly the young people,” said County Judge Lina Hidalgo said. “I asked you to be as creative as we possibly can because I don’t want to sit here a month from now and see the numbers worsen, or see this pandemic extended, and say ‘If we had just done X, would we have avoided this situation?’”


Commissioners pitched vaccine-promotion concerts, gift cards to local businesses, firework shows and Jose Altuve bobblehead dolls as incentives.

The immediate goal is not to use county coffers to pay for gift cards, said Hidalgo, who suggested the county find corporate partners to offer gift cards as a contribution to the community.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey worried that people may take advantage of direct cash payments or gift cards by returning for multiple shots.

“I do not think giving out gift cards or other pecuniary financial incentives is a good thing,” Ramsey said. “You may have people who get multiple shots so they could get their new gift card, so I have some concerns on that side of the equation.”

Ramsey said he didn’t have a problem with trying to promote vaccinations in the community through other means, such as bobblehead giveaways or veteran-centered events during Memorial Day weekend, complete with a fireworks show.

“If we give them out during a ‘Bobbleheads Weekend,’ we would pretty much max it out,” he said. “We could have a whole initiative around this… ‘What better way to honor our vets than to come get your vaccine.’”

We’ve discussed how it’s more challenging to vaccinate people now, because everyone who really wanted the vaccine and had no barriers to getting it has gotten it. What we have left for the most part is the people who need assistance and/or incentive (I’m not counting the absolute refusers, since there’s no reaching them), and this plan tries to provide some of the latter. Other places have tried similar strategies, and there is evidence that it is effective. Seems simple enough to me.

I do not believe that double-dipping is a concern, though perhaps there will be some people who will wait till there’s a reward available rather than get a shot at their earliest possible time. That seems like a minimal risk. I do think the approach of offering rewards at specific publicized events rather than making them a new default part of the experience could be worthwhile – it’s the vax incentive equivalent to the retail strategies of “blowout sales” and “everyday low prices”. Keep an open mind and track your data for every different method used. Finally, please keep to yourself any complaints about how you personally did not need any gift cards or Altuve bobbleheads to get your shot. You got the reward of getting the shots and their accompanying freedoms weeks if not months ahead of these slower-moving folks. That’s how economics works, bud.

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  1. policywonqueria says:


    The Houston Chronicle nonsensically criticized this as a “bribe” in a weekend editorial. Hello!? A bribe involves criminal conduct. A financial incentives is not.

    Words matter. The term bribe shouldn’t be used casually when discussing the actions of public officials, even if the reference is to a benefit received by constituents.

    Statutory Reference: Chapter 36 of the Texas Penal Code. (BRIBERY AND CORRUPT INFLUENCE)


    As for the merits of incentivizing desirable health behavior, there is nothing objectionable in principle. Under capitalism, much behavior is already driven by incentives, so why shouldn’t a vax-incentive be considered an illegitimate form of such? As for local governments using this tool to shape behavior in Texas, consider that Governor Abbott reserves for himself the exclusive right to wield the big stick; so why shouldn’t the locals at least be free to offer carrots to make their communities healthier and safer?

    The most salient problems with such a scheme are targeting and cost. To constrain costs and assure cost-effectiveness, the incentive payment should go only to those who would not otherwise come in for the administration of the vaccine. The members of that target group, of course, are not easily identified and located.

    Those jurisdiction that now contemplate incentives have wisely refrained from announcing their plans at the beginning, letting those eager to get vaxxed go first. So, phasing and timing alone helped avoid paying out funds to folks who would get vaxxed anyhow.


    Not publicizing the incentivization program widely, and getting the word out through informal means to the intended target groups would also help. Unfortunately, the mainstream media cannot be counted on to act responsibly in that regard. They can instead be expected to tell *YOU* that *YOU TOO* can game the system. If you click on our headline, and engage with us, we’ll tell you how. The traditional media are desperate for all the clicks and user engagement they can get. And appeals to self-interest are generally more persuasive than admonitions to act in the interest of others, and the wellbeing of the community as a whole.

    As for cheating (and “double-dipping” as Kuff calls it), it’s a valid concern, but can be avoided by ascertaining through a central vax registry if folks have already been vaccinated, or alternatively by restricting payment to a certain method that allows for duplicated payments to be blocked prophylactically or allows for post-hoc detection and enforcement of wrongful double payments (at least in theory), to support admonitions to those claiming the incentives that they can get it only once.

    Payment errors in this context would be less concerning than double-voting in elections, so the administrative controls need not be overly stringent so as to become a major costs factor themselves.


    Someone may sue and complain of discrimination – why didn’t I get paid too? – but the discrimination (some getting incentivized, others not) would *not* be invidious, would be justified by a valid public health purpose (state interest), and should therefore easily survive judicial scrutiny. Not to mention that everyone who wants it is getting the COVID vax for free. So, the differential treatment by a governmental entity that implements a vax-rewards program only concerns the incentive, not the health benefit itself.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    Another good write up, Wolf. I agree with almost all of it, except this:

    “As for cheating (and “double-dipping” as Kuff calls it), it’s a valid concern, but can be avoided by ascertaining through a central vax registry…”

    Since sin papeles illegals are being vaccinated, we can glean that ID is not actually required to get the shots, because to demand ID from illegals or anyone else would be racist, I assume. So since we can’t, or shouldn’t single me out as a White person and demand ID, I could theoretically get vaccinated at one place as Bill, the former governor of Guam, then at the next place as Hank Johnson, the person most responsible for ensuring that Guam doesn’t tip over, and then go yet another place as Mark White, another former governor (of Texas, this time).

    The whole ‘crisis’ is about control, and the crashing of world economies to benefit China, and the US government, especially the federal government under the Biden regime, is never going to “give us back” our freedoms. That’s obvious now. It will never be over. Biden’s request, “just wear the muzzle for 100 days, has passed, still, no relief from sanctions against Americans or surviving American businesses.

    We, the people, will have to TAKE back our freedom, and then, when it’s obvious the government has lost control, it will graciously grant that which has already been taken anyway.

    Every day, I see more and more people free breathing, living their lives, and not buying into the scare mongering anymore. The government itself has caused the rebellion against control, because it’s not even offering a carrot to go with the stick. It tells people to take the Trump vaccine, but their life still doesn’t change in any meaningful way even if they do. You still demand they wear the compliance masks, you still dictate when and how they can gather, you still dictate where they can travel to.

    You definitely can’t access parking for the Rolling Thunder veteran motorcycle ride in, in D.C. (which is strange, because it has been sanctioned for 30 straight years, including last year, at the height of the scare). Apparently the only safe, prescribed way to have a mass gathering of any type is to have a blm riot, like we saw here in Houston last year. No proscriptions on that kind of activity. Weird. Almost as if following the science really means, supporting the right political agenda. That’s even stranger, because a gathering of motorcycle riding veterans to pay homage to their fallen comrades doesn’t really even SEEM political, unless we’re at the point where supporting our country is seen as a political stance.

    Back when JFK was president, most every American supported our country. Compare and contrast with what we have now, a large population of people who hate our country, hate it’s achievements, and hate what it stands for.

  3. Fritz Kraut says:


    Re: “when JFK was president, most every American supported our country.”

    JFK also went to Germany and proclaimed that he was a German (Berliner, more particularly).”


    Regarding the wall, this:

    “While the wall is the most obvious and vivid demonstration of the failures of the Communist system, for all the world to see, we take no satisfaction in it, for it is, as your Mayor has said, an offense not only against history but an offense against humanity, separating families, dividing husbands and wives and brothers and sisters…”

    “All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.'”

    The Berlin Wall is long gone. Germany is again unified. What has become of USA under Trump?

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    LOL, Wolf!

    First, I believe JFK indicated that he was a German pastry in that speech. But you yourself pointed out his actual meaning, which was my point. We all used to be united against communism.

    As to a unified Germany, are they really unified? It looks to me like the East German commies subverted and took over. Look at Merkel, former East German commie. Look at what she’s done, flooding Germany with Muslims and Africans, and of course, the supercombo of doesn’t belong in Germany, African Muslims. Under her ‘unified’ leadership, they have torn their country apart and flooded it with violent savages who have not, and will never, assimilate to German culture, values, and tradition. Turns out, diversity is NOT their strength.

    If we want to see similarities, Trump and JFK were both similar, in that they fought communism at home and abroad. Unfortunately, the communists have subverted one of our major political parties, infiltrated the MSM, Hollywood, and the major institutions of government, including large swaths of higher education.

    If you’ve never watched the Yuri Bezemov video explaining exactly how the communists work, it’s an eye opener.

    So what happened to the USA under Trump? We were awakened to the ongoing subversion and communist threat, and patriots attempted to expose what was going on, and to fight back.

  5. Frederick says:

    Maybe Lina Hidalgo should just follow the approach of the Republican Governor in West Virginia and simply quote him:

    Justice said he understood not all would agree with his approach. “But if I’m able to pull this off and we are able to shut this down for the small price of $27.5 million … I would tell those critics to kiss my butt,” he told the newspaper.

  6. Jason Hochman says:

    Frederick, I just read that Lina Hidalgo won a national award! From a Democratic group that works to support candidates who are for abortion rights!

    Nancy Pelosi said that she would like to say thank you to the millions of babies who sacrificed their lives for the cause of women’s healthcare!

    Now, if they give me the entire $250,000, I might consider getting vaccinated.

    A bribe, in the legal sense may be a criminal act, but in general, informal use it can be an incentive that is for something not necessarily criminal. The denotative meaning includes incentive to do something legal (i.e. bribing a kid to eat vegetables with the promise of dessert). The connotative meaning may imply criminality to some extent, in light of the legal term of bribery.

  7. Frederick says:


    Great distraction and segue.

    I just heard that 99 out of 100 white supremacists are Republicans.

    Now, if they give me the entire $250,000, I must just throw a party for all the patriotic Americans who decided to get vaccinated to help protect their fellow citizens health and to move our economy forward.

  8. C.L. says:

    Hold on, let me put on my tin foil hat…

    “The whole ‘crisis’ is about control, and the crashing of world economies to benefit China, and the US government, especially the federal government under the Biden regime, is never going to “give us back” our freedoms.”

    Ah.. much better.

  9. Jason Hochman says:

    The truth is that the crisis is based on a real situation, but it is being manipulated in order to benefit the winners in this situation, and to keep the losers under their control.

    Perhaps you believe that Donald Trump is the only person on the planet motivated by personal gain and self serving impulses. And you believe that everyone is altruistic. But that is not true. Is Trump more narcissistic than Obama, who writes an autobiography every time he sneezes? Many people have benefited from the pandemic, and they have no interest in returning to the old normal. That’s just the facts.

    Jane Fonda alluded to this when she said that “Covid is a blessing for the left.” Also, Joe Biden is a bit senile, and may have slipped up when he talked about “declaring our independence from this virus.” Of course I’ve never been dependent on the corona virus, but the Democrats certainly did depend on it to influence the election. Certainly, there are opportunistic people using the pandemic, and fueling the fear, for their advantage.

    You can read up on the “Great Reset.” The World Economic Forum has a big page about it. The motto is “you will own nothing and be happy.” To that end, I invite all progressives to begin their happiness and give me all of their valuable stuffs. I will help your progress to happiness.

    For everyone else, it is true, that freedom is not given from governments. As they once wrote, it is “endowed by the Creator.” But we must stand up to those who would take it away.

  10. Fritz Kraut says:

    I am a Berliner – More on JFK’s historic declaration of universal citizenship


    A Berliner aka Berliner Pfannkuchen is indeed a donut, but without a hole. Jam filling in lieu of hole.

    Speaking of donuts, where are the nuts?

    Ha, ha, this is a German-American counter-joke we are not kidding.

    Seriously, when I composed that comment I thought about the JFK’s self-donuttification and I refrained from bringing it up because I didn’t think it would resonate with the readership here. Only to have Bill Daniels — of all contemporaries — rise to the occasion like the yeast dough before it gets gets dropped into the deep fryer to evolve into edible nay delicious Berliners. Sugar-coat before ingesting.


    And while we are on it, JFK’s pronunciation of just four German words was awful, but the crowd roared with excitement when he called himself a Berliner, as you can see on the historic footage. But he also had a competent interpreter deliver his speech to his literally captive audience over the loudspeakers in flawless German.

    To this credit, JKF didn’t intimate that he lusted for his audience, like Jimmy Carter later on his linguistically ill-fated trip to Poland. [actually it was a freelance translator’s mistake]


    By way of premium content and for culinary extra credit, Wolfgang Puck or Arnold Schwarzenegger would tell you that the same thing is called ‘Krapfen’ in Austria (their mothers probably made them) and that there is no Pfannkuchen [pan cake] there at all, at least not by that name. Like Anglos and Americans, two nations divided by a common language. Not to mention that even the German Germans are not in accord in the donut denomination department.

    The German word “Lust” (capitalized as are all nouns in German) is another joy-bringer in cross-cultural miscommunication. It just means having appetite or being in the mood for something, such as having a Berliner with a cup of coffee, for example. The between-the-sheets version would be require the prefix “Woll” with one of the three ‘l’s dropped.

    That’s probably all the semantic and linguistics trivia you needed for the day.


    Regarding Herr Trump … he not only habitually denied reality at will, but his own German ancestry. Shame on him. That said, good for all Germans to be spared the ancestral association.

    Lina Hidalgo should turn down the abortionists’ award. Thank you, but no. I serve the entire community of Harris County. Abortion is very sensitive issue that people of good will have strong feelings about, and abortion policy is not within the ambit of what Commissioners’ court is responsible for in any event.

    Very simple electoral calculus here: The abortionists and their advocates are going to vote for the Democratic candidate anyway. What other choice do they have?
    The additional votes are located at the center of the ideological spectrum in the electorate, which still has a bell-shaped distribution. If you want to be viable, you move to the center. The Republicans have abandoned it.

    That said, her posture would likely make no difference in a county-level race, i.e., in a re-election bid for her current post. It could be a bid deal if she were to run for statewide office, though.

  11. Frederick says:


    Impressive that you attempt to turn an asset (Obama’s literacy) into a liability versus Trump’s fourth grade word soup vocabulary. And doubly so, when speaking about COVID and completely out of context. Never miss an attempt to deflect and create outrage over superficial topics!

    Not impressed by your seditious use of God to promote treasonous acts to “stand up to those who would take it away”. I suspect you strongly believe in the Big Lie and were eating popcorn and drinking a soda while watching the live TV broadcasts of the unpatriotic attack on the US Capitol by the RepubliQanons.

  12. Bill Daniels says:

    The basic difference between patriotism and sedition can be easily determined by merely noting who won, and who lost.

    Our founding fathers won…..patriots!

    Now that Marxists seem to be taking control, we are being told that the founding fathers were NOT patriots, in fact, they were the evil, bad, and seditionous ones.

    And that is what Marxists do…..revisionist history…..tear down statues, rename things, vilify folks formerly looked upon as heroes etc.

    Any of this sound familiar? Have we seen this stuff happen here in the US?

  13. Jason Hochman says:

    Frederick, you seem to have been brainwashed by the media…whether or not Obama is more literate than Trump, it doesn’t change the fact that both of them are narcissists.

    And, come to think of it, is protesting at the Capitol more seditious than, say, starting an autonomous zone in the middle of a city? Setting fire to a police station with police in it, and trying to block them from escaping? You are saying that it is sedition if I make my own choices about which vaccines to get or not get? If I want to have a Fourth of July cookout in my own yard, with a small number of relatives or neighbors, and we decide to get together without our paper masks, or we are only four feet apart. Sedition has a very new, and slanted, definition, for sure.

    the award itself is not for promoting abortion. The organization supports women who are pro abortion rights, but is not, from what I can tell, specific for actions taken to support abortion rights. Their press release does say that it recognizes her for making Harris County a “more safe, equitable, and just place.” These people are really out of touch. More safe? We are in the middle of a murder epidemic. That doesn’t sound like “more safe” to me. And what about the carnage on our roads? I mean what do I know about more safe, just wear a paper mask and you won’t get murder, or smashed by a drunk driver, or drowned in a flood.

  14. Jason Hochman says:

    For those interested, Methodist and the Astros are offering free vaccinations at Minute Maid Park this Sunday from 11 AM–1 PM. They will give you tickets to a future Astros home game.