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Free food incentives for COVID-19 vaccines met with mixed reactions

In California, free queso at Chipotle and free Doritos Locos tacos at Taco Bell are also up for grabs

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — We’ve seen all kinds of different coronavirus vaccine incentives across the country, from free Krispy Kreme donuts to even free firearms in West Virginia.

The list goes on. In California, free queso at Chipotle and free Doritos Locos tacos at Taco Bell are also up for grabs.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Daniel Oshea as he enjoyed a snack with his fiance in Encinitas. “I think it’s great. [It’s] free stuff.”

However, the irony has led to mixed reactions. Some Californians are concerned that giving away unhealthy food is sending the wrong public health message.

Kristi Acuna has been a holistic nutritionist in Southern California for 17 years.

“It’s almost like going to the dentist, getting your teeth cleaned, telling them ‘Don’t eat sugar. It gives cavities,’ and then they hand you a lollipop for completing your time at the dentist,’” said Acuna.

“That’s very contradictory because that stuff is garbage at the end of the day,” said Oshea.

Acuna said certain foods, such as processed sugar, cause the body to swell, and is worried about these incentives’ impact on Californians’ health.

“Oh, it’s absolutely disgusting,” said Acuna. “It’s heinous. It’s abysmal. I think it’s one of the worst things they could have shown our people - their people - that they don’t care about our health at all.”

According to the CDC, nearly 80% of Americans hospitalized for COVID-19 are overweight or obese. Acuna said it’s important to focus on eating nutritious foods. 

“I’m just disgusted by the whole thing,” said Acuna. “It really screamed in everybody’s face ‘wow, you’re really trying to bribe me and feed me something that’s so unhealthy that further depletes me.’”

Others argue that it’s a creative way to entice people to get vaccinated. 

San Diego County partnered with McDonald’s to give out a free menu item to people getting vaccinated for COVID-19. During these event time slots, McDonald’s employees, family members, and the general public can receive the shot at participating McDonald’s locations. News 8 spoke with a representative from the county, who said the goal is to “make it easier - and more fun - to get vaccinated.”

The next McDonald’s vaccination event in San Diego County is scheduled for Thursday, July 2 in Chula Vista. 

RELATED: 10 California residents get $1.5M richer via vaccine jackpot