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Finish the vaccine race with an Oregon kick

May 14th, 2021 by dk

In the endurance race to vaccinate as many Oregonians as possible, Governor Kate Brown has been using a “sit and kick” strategy. We’ve allowed others to keep the lead while we wait for the best opportunity to show that Oregonians finish races better than their peers. We must reach for a higher gear to cross the finish line of herd immunity.

What will the kick look like? It’s easier to describe what it won’t be. It won’t be “steady as she goes.” That won’t get us there. Vaccine skepticism has always had a strong presence in Oregon. When we see a “Question Authority” bumper sticker, we rightly ask “Says who?” Only Oregonians question the authority questioners.

This vaccine effort could become completely worthless if we don’t reach herd immunity as fast as possible. It’s the only effective endgame against this virus and it’s looking like we may not get there. If this wily virus mutates to overcome our vaccines, we’ll have to rerun this race with no recovery time in between. We don’t want to do that.

We cannot settle for “heard immunity” — “I heard something that makes me feel better, so I’m going with that instead of getting a vaccination shot.” We have an opportunity here to show the nation and the world that Oregonians know how to finish a race. Here’s what that extra gear might look like.

Stop talking to vaccine skeptics as citizens. Those who choose and act on behalf of the common good have already gotten their shots. That ship has sailed. Address them as shrewd consumers. Sad but true, this is the only path to empowerment that many Americans perceive. Let them consider themselves “smart shoppers.”

What does a consumer-oriented pitch look like for this next phase of vaccinations? West Virginia and Maryland are experimenting with hard cash. That’s a bad idea for two reasons. First, it heightens concerns that the vaccine must be a trick. Second, this won’t be the last time we need people to get a shot to keep everyone safe from a disease.

Soften the contours of the deal. Make it less starkly transactional. Add a social element to wean them off the addictive individualism. Give them game tickets. Meet them at their favorite bar. Dangle a bigger prize that represents our pooled interests and benefits.

New Yorkers can parlay vaccination for free tickets to a Yankees or Mets game. Erie County in western New York launched an innovative “shot and chaser” program. They set up inside a local brewery. Free beer garnered more shots over the weekend than all the other clinics in that county combined.

We know what motivates Americans. We only need to do it.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown could partner with sports teams and brew pubs tomorrow. Declare a daily $1000 drawing for a lucky vaxxer. Up the ante to $10,000 daily if Oregon’s vaccination rate passes all other states or reaches 85 percent of our population. We can lead the way. Others will follow.

Let’s finish this race on our own terms. Everyone should see that Oregon knows how to kick.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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