COVID-19 Scan for Oct 26, 2021

Cash COVID vaccine incentives
Pandemic's effect on research

Guaranteed cash worked as a COVID vaccine incentive, study says

A guaranteed $25 cash card for both vaccine recipients and drivers of vaccine recipients lessened slowing COVID-19 vaccine uptake at participating sites in North Carolina, according to a research letter in JAMA Internal Medicine yesterday.

This contrasts with a JAMA study in July that showed no increased vaccine uptake from Ohio's million-dollar lottery.

In total, the North Carolina program gave out 2,890 cash cards to vaccine recipients and 1,374 cash cards to drivers. Compared with a baseline period of May 12 to 25, during the intervention period (considered Jun 2 to 8 in the study), participating clinics had less of a decline in vaccinations when compared with other sites in the same four counties and the whole state, at –26.4%, –51.1%, and –48.6%, respectively. A first baseline period from Apr 28 to May 11 suggested that these participating sites may have had greater traffic compared with other sites, as well.

Of 401 vaccine recipients surveyed, 41% said the cash card was an important reason for getting vaccinated, and they were more likely to say so if they weren't White (odds ratios [ORs], 2.00 to 4.68) or if they had less than $40,000 in annual income (ORs, 1.94 to 2.36). Nine percent said they would not have been vaccinated if there were no cash incentive, and 15% said they waited or searched for an opportunity for vaccination incentives.

"Someone driving me here today" was an important reason for 49% of respondents, with greater likelihood among Black people (OR, 1.74), Hispanic people (OR, 2.51), or lower-income respondents (OR, 2.77 to 6.09). Furthermore, those with lower income (OR, 2.10 to 3.97) and those 50 years and older (OR, 2.30) were more likely to have been brought by a driver who received a cash card.

"In this pilot program in North Carolina, incentives slowed the decline in vaccination and promoted more equitable distribution by alleviating barriers to vaccination, particularly for low-income, Black, and Hispanic individuals," the researchers conclude.
Oct 25 JAMA Intern Med study


Non-COVID research projects may be affected most during pandemic

Researchers who did not conduct COVID-related projects initiated 36% fewer new projects in 2020 versus 2019, according to a commentary published in Nature Communications today. The reductions were seen across all fields, particularly affecting women and those taking care of children.

The study was a follow-up to an April 2020 study that surveyed about 4,500 random US and European scientists and found that scientists who relied on laboratories and equipment had a greater reduction in research hours compared with those who didn't as much. In addition, researchers with children 5 years or younger also saw a 17% decline in research hours.

In this current survey, conducted in January 2021 and involving 6,982 scientists, overall work hours were closer to pre-pandemic levels, with only a 2.2-hour deficit per week compared with the 7.1-hour deficit reported in April 202020. Those pursuing COVID-related work had about the same levels as pre-pandemic productivity; however, those that didn't dropped from three new projects to two, and new co-authorships for non-COVID papers declined by 5%. The researchers say the decline is likely due to factors affecting all fields.

"The finding that researchers pursued fewer new projects in 2020 suggests that these trends may reflect scientists working on established topics, writing up existing research, submitting drafts earlier than they would have otherwise, writing more grant proposals than typical, or revisiting old data and reviving legacy projects that they would not have pursued otherwise," the researchers write.

"During the early phase of the pandemic, scientists reported a sharp decline in time spent on research," said Dashun Wang, PhD, one of the study's authors, in a Northwestern University press release. "These productivity levels have recovered, which suggests some optimism. However, given the long gestation time for new research ideas to mature and be published, the decline in new projects suggests that the impact of the pandemic may not manifest in the publication record for years."
Oct 26 Nature Communications study
Oct 26 Northwestern University press release

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