WATSONVILLE—According to Santa Cruz County’s Health Services Agency, as of June 22, more than 146,500 county residents (that is, about 53%) have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. And more than 172,000 residents (62%) have received at least one shot.
The numbers are promising. However, rates of vaccinations are gradually dwindling, at least compared to the number of people eligible and vaccine availability. And it’s a certain demographic of people who are showing the most signs of hesitancy: Residents between the ages of 18 and 39, especially young men who identify as people of color or mixed race.
Community Bridges CEO Raymon Cancino quickly noticed this trend. His organization since the start of the pandemic has run the Bridges to Access Vaccination Helpline, and continually tracked vaccination numbers since the shots were released.
“We’ve been seeing the rates fall,” he said. “We looked at the data … we were trying to target who were the most vaccine-hesitant folks.”
Cancino and his team began brainstorming on how they could incentivize this demographic into getting an inoculation. They came up with the idea of “Poke for a Pint,” a pop-up clinic at the East Lake Village Shopping Center, in front of Coffeeville and Fruition Brewing.
The clinic was held on June 18 with the help of staff from Santa Cruz Community Health, who administered the vaccines. Every person who signed up for the clinic was offered a free beer or a free coffee from the nearby businesses.
“We came up with a marketing strategy, essentially,” Cancino said. “We were trying to make it fun—a playful way of getting people to come out here with their friends, or identify someone who might need to.”
Community Bridges staff was on hand to check people into the clinic, and hand out free T-shirts, pens, stress balls, tote bags and more. A special logo was created for the event, featuring two beer steins with bandaids stuck on them.
Incentive programs have been popping up in other areas of the state and the U.S. to get people vaccinated—from discounts at local businesses to vaccine-specific lotteries.
The state of California introduced “Vax for the Win,” a program that awarded millions of dollars in prizes and perks to vaccinated residents.
Cancino said that incentives do work—they already had people signed up for the clinic prior to the day of. He added that if they had enough people interested in “Poke for a Pint,” they might hold similar events in the future. The Slough Brewing Collective on Hangar Way in Watsonville, and Greater Purpose Brewing Company in Santa Cruz have already expressed interest in teaming up.
“We want to do whatever we can to get this county vaccinated, so things can keep improving,” Cancino said.
For information visit communitybridges.org. Call or text the Bridges to Access Vaccination Helpline at 219-8607.