The White House is offering discounts on groceries to Americans who get the new bivalent Covid booster.
Those who get the shot at CVS, Winn-Dixie, or Rite Aid will get up to $20 off their purchases.
It comes amid soaring inflation that has driven up the price of household staples. A recent American Farm Bureau report found Thanksgiving dinner this year will cost a whopping 20 per cent more than last year.
The bivalent booster campaign comes ahead of a potential spike in Covid cases and hospitalizations this winter which could put unacceptable pressure on already-overstretched hospitals.
The booster rollout has been sluggish so far with just over 11 per cent of eligible Americans five and over having rolled up their sleeves for the shot.
President Joe Biden received the updated bivalent booster on October 25, making this his third booster to date, and fifth shot overall. He urged others to get the vaccine that targets both new versions of omicron as well as the original strain.
Enthusiasm for the bivalent vaccine has proven lackluster at best. Roughly 89 per cent of Americans eligible for the shot have yet to get one. The slim uptake of the new jab is a far cry from the eagerness with which Americans got vaccinated in early 2021.
White House discounts for Covid booster recipients
Albertson’s pharmacies: 10 per cent off groceries (up to $20 off) for people who get their COVID-19 shot in-store.
CVS: $5 off any purchase of $20 either in-store or online.
Rite Aid: $5 off their $25 purchase for those who receive a COVID-19 booster.
Southeastern Grocers: $20 in free groceries when a customer gets their updated COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot.
The groceries discounts were revealed in a White House announcement on October 25.
The Administration has partnered with Albertson’s – which owns over 2,000 stores across America including Safeway – as well as Acme and Kings Food Markets.
People who go into an Albertson’s-owned pharmacy can get 10 per cent off groceries – up to $20 off – if they get their COVID-19 vaccine in-store.
Those who go to CVS for their bivalent shot can receive $5 off any purchase of $20 or more, while Rite Aid will give the same discount for purchases of $25 or more.
Southeastern Grocers, owner of Fresco y Más, Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie grocery stores, are offering shoppers $20 in free groceries when they get their updated Covid shot as well as a flu shot.
President Biden urged Americans to take advantage of the deals ahead of holiday festivities: ‘Get the shot. Get 5, 10, 20 dollars off at your drugstore or grocery purchase at the time you get the shot.
‘Some are making it easy for you just to walk in and get your vaccine right away, including on nights and weekends.’
The new White House incentive program comes on the heels of the administration’s announcement that it would stop paying for Covid vaccines this fall. Federal funding for Covid treatment and vaccine puchases is dwindling and Congress has proven unwilling to allocate more.
The administration announced in August that it would begin transitioning out of the acute emergency phase, a move that will shift more control over pricing and coverage to the healthcare industry and big pharma.
Dr Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator said, ‘My hope is that in 2023, you’re going to see the commercialization of almost all of these products… Some of that is actually going to begin this fall, in the days and weeks ahead.’
This is the first time that the Biden administration have dangled discounts as a carrot in order to boost vaccination rates, though the President has in the past urged states to enact incentives like these. Many of them did.
California, for instance, instituted the You Call the Shot California program which gave out $50 gift cards to people who got their shots. In Arkansas, people who got a Covid shot were eligible to receive a $20 Game and Fish certificate for state fishing/hunting licenses. And in New York City, a group called Joints for Jabs gave out joints in Union Square Park to adults who had an official vaccine card.
In June last year, the White House dubbed the “Month of Action” aimed at boosting incentives for people to get the shots.
In September, the US was recording an 8.2 per cent year-over-year inflation rate.
In June, the inflation rate reached a record high 9.1 per cent.
Inflation cooled in October. It slowed to a 7.7 per cent gain in the year through October, less than the 7.9 per cent that analysts had expected and down from the year-over-year rate in September.
The cost of everyday essentials has risen due to inflation. For instance, the average price for a gallon of milk was $4.18 in October compared to $3.55 in 2021 versus $3.32 in 2020.
The average price for one dozen eggs was $3.42 in October compared to $1.67 in 2021 from $1.51 in 2020.
Meanwhile, enthusiasm for the newest generation of Covid-19 booster shots is low, a troubling sight for public health officials who have predicted a surge in cases as temperatures continue to drop.
Uptake of the bivalent boosters in the US has disappointed health officials so far.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that fewer than 36 million Americans aged five and up have received the shot so far – about 11 per cent.
It is the first vaccine tailored for the Omicron variant, as previous shots were developed to combat to original Wuhan strain.
Health officials were hoping to roll out the vaccine en masse this fall in hopes that it could prevent another winter surge of the virus.
President Biden received the bivalent booster last month when the White House unveiled its rash of new incentives to get shots in arms.
‘We’re here with a simple message: get vaccinated. Update your COVID vaccine. It’s incredibly effective, but the truth is not enough people are getting it. We’ve got to change that so we can all have a safe and healthy holiday season,’ President Biden said.
Covid cases have remained low despite little demand for the additional shots, though. America is averaging 40,000 daily cases and 300 deaths each day from the virus.
The anemic response to the bivalent booster – called that because it targets both new versions of omicron as well as the original strain – is another sign that the public is growing increasingly fatigued with pandemic protocol and vaccinations.
Keeping up to date with vaccinations is key to propping up the immune system as the protection from a previous infection or shot wanes over time.
Every American five and older who have already received their first series of shots are entitled to a bivalent booster, provided their last shot was at least two months ago.
The US is currently contending with a respiratory infection triple threat. Covid-19 is still circulating, alongside the seasonal flu and respiratory syncitial virus (RSV), a common respiratory virus that is typically mild in children and looks like the common cold.
Hospitals across the US are straining to keep up with a deluge of seniors and infants contracting RSV. This comes as flu levels are higher than normal after two years of lockdown, which kept it suppressed.
‘As a country, we have a choice to make,’ President Biden said at the White House last month.
‘Can we repeat what happened in the past winters — more infections, more hospitalizations, more loved ones getting sick, even dying from the virus? Or can we have a much better winter if we use all — all — the tools we have available to us now?’