After offering ACL wristbands, what comes next? Group plans additional vaccine incentives


AUSTIN (KXAN) — A thousand people will go into Austin FC’s Q2 Stadium Friday to receive their COVID-19 vaccine and walk out with more than just the advantage of being better protected against the virus.

VaxTogetherAustin, a nonprofit created during the pandemic, announced the people who scheduled a vaccine appointment during this particular clinic will each receive a wristband to get into the first weekend of the Austin City Limits Music Festival in October. It’s the largest incentive the group has arranged thanks to a partnership with Walgreens, Q2 Stadium and ACL.

“We’re excited, because that’s a thousand individuals who, before we offered this incentive, were not fully vaccinated and will be on their way to being fully vaccinated after their appointment tomorrow,” Sharon Cohan explained.

Cohan serves as executive director of VaxTogetherAustin, which she helped form in January to assist neighbors with booking appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine. The goal shifted in more recent months to joining with Walgreens to set up vaccine clinics throughout the community. Through this partnership, Cohan said her group has so far helped administer about 15,000 doses.

“Every time we vaccinate another individual, we’re helping to control the pandemic and make the community safer,” Cohan said.

Providing vaccine incentives also became a much bigger focus for the group. At some of the most recent clinics, people received everything from gift cards for Walgreens and H-E-B to free beer at a local brewery. However, when news got out Wednesday about the one-day tickets to ACL, Cohan said it only took about three hours to book all 1,000 appointments that opened up online.

“The data shows that these incentives do work,” Cohan said. “When you offer an incentive, there is a surge in registrations for vaccine appointments.”

She said discussions are underway to see what other incentives VaxTogetherAustin can arrange, but it’s going to be tough to beat giving away highly-coveted tickets to ACL.

“This one was actually a bit of a surprise for us, so I can’t predict what other incredible surprises might come our way,” she said.

ACL organizers announced earlier this month people will have to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test or vaccination to enter the festival grounds this year. They’ll soon share more information about mask-wearing closer to the event. The music festival will happen the first two weekends of October.

Cohan also responded to criticism about rewarding people who waited to get vaccinated, especially with something as enticing as an ACL wristband. She said she acknowledges it and understands it, but points out the effectiveness of providing incentives.

“We’re committed to helping increase vaccination rates and decrease hesitancy,” Cohan said. “We certainly wish that we do that without these incentives, but we saw such a slowdown in the uptake of vaccine in the last couple of months. Then, as these incentive programs have rolled out, we’re seeing an increase again.”

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