Ledo Pizza is one of many Maryland businesses that began offering incentives for their customers to get vaccinated. The pizza chain gave away free 8-inch cheese pizzas to people who received at least one vaccine shot during the months of May and June. (Courtesy of LedoPizza.com

By Megan Sayles
AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member

Government officials, community leaders, celebrities and health professionals have all played a part in endorsing the COVID-19 vaccines. President Joe Biden publicly received his first Pfizer shot all the way back in December of 2020 at Christiana Hospital in Delaware; Tyler Perry hosted his own vaccination special, which aired on BET, with medical experts to assuage the concerns of the Black community; Al Roker was vaccinated live on NBC’s “Today” show. 

It’s as if they were trying to say, “If I can do it, you can do it too.” But, for some, these public displays are not enough. Businesses have their own way of promoting vaccination, their method: incentives. 

Some, including JPMorgan Chase, Target, Aldi and Starbucks, offered paid-time off to employees going to get the vaccine. Others, like KinderCare and the YMCA, provided free childcare for parents while they received their shots. 

Aside from these national incentives, Maryland businesses offered several of their own. Ledo Pizza chains in the state gave away free 8-inch cheese pizzas to people who received at least one vaccine shot during the months of May and June. The Maryland Lottery launched a $2 million VaxCash Promotion that randomly selected and awarded $40,000 prizes for 40 straight days to vaccinated Marylanders. On July 4, the grand prize of $400,000 was awarded to a Baltimore City resident. 

Most recently, two Baltimore-based businesses that incentivized the vaccine are CFG Bank and the National Aquarium. In partnership with the Baltimore City Health Department, the National Aquarium hosted four vaccine clinics. After visitors received their shot, they were given complimentary admission to the aquarium. 

According to Jennifer Driban, senior vice president and chief mission officer, the National Aquarium remained in close contact with Baltimore City leaders and the health department to determine how it could collaborate with the city in response to the pandemic. 

“We jumped at the opportunity to host a vaccination clinic and hoped that a free, fun-filled trip to the National Aquarium would encourage folks to come out and get vaccinated,” said Driban. Over the course of the clinics, 100 vaccinations were administered. 

CFG Bank announced on Aug. 30 that employees who show proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be awarded a $1000 bonus. President and CEO of the firm Bill Wiedel said that while working on a plan to bring people back into the office on a hybrid basis, he asked his human resources director for the percentage of employees who were vaccinated. The number, which was self-reported, was 48%. 

“I felt like the number was higher, but I didn’t know how much higher,” said Wiedel. “I thought let’s give them incentives because I don’t believe in forcing people to get the vaccine.” The CEO approached Jack Dwyer, who owns the bank, and got the greenlight for the bonuses. 

Now, 97% of the bank’s employees are vaccinated, and the response to the initiative was overwhelmingly positive. Wiedel hopes that other Baltimore businesses will consider implementing this incentive at their companies. 

“I feel like the risks of getting vaccinated are much lower than the risk of getting COVID and dealing with the impact of that,” said Wiedel. 

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