Some cities and states are giving kids money to get the COVID vaccine

Vaccine incentives for adults haven't worked very well. Now some officials are trying them out with kids as young as 5.

Jessica Rendall Wellness Writer
Jessica is a writer on the Wellness team with a focus on health news. Before CNET, she worked in local journalism covering public health issues, business and music.
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With the hope that kids might be as motivated by money as they are by dessert or a few extra minutes of screen time, some states and cities are paying children as young as 5 to get the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Kids ages 5 to 11 are now able to get Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, after a rigorous regulatory process by the US Food and Drug Administration and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that the vaccine is safe and effective (kids ages 12 and older have been eligible for Pfizer's vaccine for a while). In an effort to get them vaccinated, some officials are opening up their districts' wallets and offering cash gifts and scholarships.

Offering incentives for adults to get vaccinated hasn't proved to be very successful, even with prizes like $1 million lotteries, scholarships and more. For example, a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that offering adults $10 or $50 to be vaccinated didn't increase vaccination rates among the vaccine hesitant. In some groups, it decreased vaccination rates.

Kids might respond more positively to vaccine incentives, but that could be a tough call to make considering many of them need their parents' consent and assistance to get the vaccine. 

Pfizer's vaccine for kids younger than 12 is different than the vaccine for adults. It's a smaller dose and a slightly different formula. That means pharmacies, doctors' offices and other vaccine sites for children must have it in stock before the full swing of the vaccine campaign for kids takes hold. According to White House COVID-19 response team coordinator Jeff Zients, the nationwide vaccine program for kids will be up and running the week of Nov. 8, with parents now able to schedule appointments. 

As more children start going in for a COVID-19 shot, here are a few cities and states that are giving kids incentives to get vaccinated.


Everyone in Chicago who receives a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine through the city's program will be eligible for a $100 Visa gift card. Pfizer's vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11 will be available through the city starting Nov. 15, making younger kids also eligible for the gift card. More details, including information by neighborhood, can be found on the city's website


Kids ages 5 and older are eligible for the state's $100 vaccine incentive program, which runs through November and is also available to adults getting their first shot. Participating vaccine sites can be found on the state's website for the program.  

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Students in Maine may not get paid for getting vaccinated, but they could win their school a cash prize of $50,000, $25,000 or $10,000 if they make an informative video encouraging their peers and parents to get the COVID-19 vaccine. 

The project is put on by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine Department of Education. Kids ages 5 to 17 are eligible to participate and make a video before the Nov. 22 deadline. The winners' schools can use the money for classroom, gym, sports, music or playground equipment, as well as field trips or other school activities. 


The state has a Kids Deserve a Shot program, which gives kids ages 12-17 a $200 gift card and a chance to win a $100,000 scholarship to a private or public school in Minnesota. However, the incentives aren't available to kids ages 5 to 11 at this time. 

New York City 

Everyone eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in the city's five boroughs will get $100 on a prepaid debit card, or free tickets to an NYC attraction, if they get their first vaccine shot at a city-run site -- children ages 5 and older included. 

"We really want kids [and] families to take advantage of that. Everyone could use a little more money around the holidays," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference Thursday. "But most importantly, we want our kids and our families to be safe."


Kids age 5 and over and adults younger than 26 can enter to win Ohio's Vax-2-School scholarship before Dec. 1. Parents can enter their child's information about their vaccine on the Vax-2-School website for an opportunity to win a $10,000 or $100,000 scholarship to a state college or university. There will be 150 $10,000 scholarship winners and five $100,000 scholarship winners. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.