Stephanie Meyer, 73, a retired teacher who lives in Oklahoma, would visit her daughter and her grandchildren in the city 2 to 3 times a year pre-COVID. She received her last vaccination dose a month ago and had made her first trip back after nearly 14 months and is now enjoying time with her family.
To her surprise, being vaccinated has had other advantages too, such as free donuts at Krispy Kreme. On March 22, Krispy Kreme, the national donut chain, began giving one free glazed donut a day to customers who show their vaccination card at the counter. They’ll keep doing so until the end of the year. Beyond the tasty perks that come with getting vaccinated, says Meyer, she’s mostly glad she has “peace of mind” now that she has been inoculated.
So far, according to the New York City Health Department, nearly 4.1 million New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The state is planning to issue what it is calling the Excelsior pass, a digitized wallet of sorts that will verify vaccinations instantly so residents can enter pubic gatherings and events . And a growing number of businesses and retailers have been offering free services and incentives to support those who have received the COVID-19 vaccination. Through the end of July, Staples will offer customers free lamination of their vaccination cards and Uber and Lyft give free rides to those that are on their way to get vaccinated.
“Transportation should never be a barrier to health care,” said Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in a statement to Uber’s investors in February. Uber, in partnership with Walgreen’s, has committed to offering up to 10 million free or discounted rides.
Meanwhile, customers are enjoying the corporate freebies. Helen Graves, 61, a freelance editor who’d been living in New York for the past 40 years, says she found out about the donuts through news stories. Standing in the Krispy Kreme shop on West 96th Street and Broadway, Graves said was vaccinated at the Javits Center and had just received her last dose of the Pfizer vaccine. She’s also excited about the state’s Excelsior pass, hoping she’ll be able to attend larger events, including weddings.
“I’m waiting 10 more days, since I have to wait 14 days since my last dose,” said Graves with two donut bags in hand– one holding the free glazed donut, and the other, a cream-filled one that she paid for.
Graves says she also heard about Staples offering a free lamination of the vaccination card, but she decided to visit the local donut shop first.
Not everyone, of course, is getting vaccinated, but the number of those getting the vaccination is rising. According to the latest Pew Research Center study conducted last month, half of Americans say they intend to get vaccinated. President Biden has set his goal high too: he says by the middle of May, 90 percent of all Americans will be eligible to get it.
“If anybody gets a vaccine because of free stuff, including the idea that you may be part of an elite, they have access to other things you’re crazy,” said Jorge Fernandez, 67. He received two doses of the Moderna vaccine about two and a half months ago.
“You should get the vaccine because it’s the right thing to do,” said Fernandez. “Because, you know, you’re part of a society and you have responsibilities.”
Three people dear to him, one including his aunt and a close friend, have died from COVID.
According to the Pew Research Center, about 30 percent of the public do not plan to get a vaccine. Their reasons not to get inoculated include a fear of getting side effects, that vaccines were developed and tested too quickly, and the desire to know more about how well they work.
Dave Gilstram, for example, is still worried about getting vaccinated. “Its genome manipulation,” said Gilstram, who is a freelance musician and writer. He said he kept up to date with all sides of the story and is concerned that the vaccine was still experimental and wanted to hold off on getting it until better data emerged.
Regardless of the numbers of those who are still holding out, the rollout of vaccines is ramping up as eligibility in New York State has expanded to adults 30 years of age and over, beginning March 30. As a result, more adults will be able to take advantage of these corporate giveaways.
While Douglas Bendall, 81, a theologian who’s been vaccinated, says he leaves his vaccination card at home, somewhere in his drawer. He doesn’t think he’ll be taking advantage of any of the freebies, though he says he thinks it’s fine that a lot of these businesses are offering free things. He says that at his age, he prefers to wind things down and make life simpler.
“I just think we all need to come together and love each other and be kind to each other,” he said. For him, that’s what is most important, not munching on a free glazed donut.