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Stick It For A Ticket: Free Baseball Game Entry For Those Who Get Vaccine At Stadium

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

As vaccination rates slow across the country, incentive programs are quickly spreading. Ohio has its Vax-a-Million state lottery. New Jersey offers free glasses of wine, and some employers are paying people to get a shot. Chuck Quirmbach of member station WUWM in Milwaukee reports on a Major League Baseball team trying to convert a vaccination into a free ticket.

CHUCK QUIRMBACH, BYLINE: In Milwaukee, the number of people already vaccinated is about seven percentage points below the national average. City health commissioner Kirsten Johnson uses baseball lingo to describe the challenge.

KIRSTEN JOHNSON: We do want people to step up to the plate. We want to knock it out of the park, if you will. I mean, we want to get people vaccinated.

QUIRMBACH: Johnson is especially trying to reach younger people at places they gather. And in Milwaukee, that's the ballpark where the Brewers play. At two games this week, unvaccinated people can come to a nearby building and get a shot. Minutes later, they'll get two tickets to attend that day's Brewers game.

In the sprawling parking lot, health rules limit tailgating to small groups. While chatting with a few friends before last night's game, Mike Huntsman says the ticket offer convinced him to make time to get his shot.

MIKE HUNTSMAN: Sure, why not? Absolutely. I'm almost - not saying ashamed I haven't gotten it yet, but I've just missed appointments and opportunities to get it.

QUIRMBACH: Some other tailgaters say they've already been vaccinated but like the team's plan because they want to be part of big crowds again. But devoted and unvaccinated fan Marco Martinez says the ticket giveaway isn't winning him over.

MARCO MARTINEZ: If they offer me a zillion different baseball jerseys to get the vaccine, I'll definitely be onboard if I get a new jersey every week. You can ask my wife (laughter) - a new jersey every week.

QUIRMBACH: Others, writing on the Brewer's Facebook page, have attacked the team for straying into a health care controversy. After all, this is politically divided Wisconsin, where Republican politicians fought mask mandates, with some even questioning the need to be immunized. Brewer's executive Rick Schlesinger says he understands the fans' objections.

RICK SCHLESINGER: We're going to never bat a thousand with any kind of messaging we do. There's always going to be certain fans or certain people that have different opinions.

QUIRMBACH: Schlesinger says the Brewers are convinced that the vaccines are safe. And he says if any fans are concerned about attending a three-hour baseball game just after getting a shot, they can return home and get a ticket to a different game.

For NPR News, I'm Chuck Quirmbach in Milwaukee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.