From cows to condos, how countries around the world are trying to boost vaccine drives with giveaways

Researchers around the world feel that such inducements may be an effective tool for increasing vaccine uptake

Namita Singh@Namita074
Friday 18 June 2021 15:16
<p>Walgreens staff prepare vaccines for educational staff at Kettering City Schools to receive the Covid-19 vaccine as a part of Ohio’s Phase 1B vaccine distribution in Dayton, Ohio on 10 February 2021</p>

Walgreens staff prepare vaccines for educational staff at Kettering City Schools to receive the Covid-19 vaccine as a part of Ohio’s Phase 1B vaccine distribution in Dayton, Ohio on 10 February 2021

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If you get a coronavirus vaccine in Moscow, you could leave the vaccine centre not just with a jab in your arm but also with car keys in your hand, as Russia’s capital is giving away five vehicles a week in a lucky draw for those getting inoculated.

This is just one example of the creative ways countries are trying to reward people getting a Covid jab. From a $1.4m (£1.01m) condominium to a single joint of marijuana, authorities and companies around the world are offering a huge range of incentives in a bid to boost their inoculation drives, targeting the vaccine-hesitant to get a shot in their arms.

Here we take a look at some of the most innovative vaccination incentives offered by different countries and cities and how it has affected their health programmes.

Residents in Hong Kong have been entered into a draw to win a $1.4m condominium to encourage people to get the vaccine

It’s raining lotteries in Hong Kong, where private companies are giving away high-end rewards ranging from a lucky draw for a $1.4m condominium, a Tesla car or simply a gold bar. Other private companies are also stepping up their game to boost the vaccination drive and are offering rewards such as iPhones and shopping vouchers to vaccinated residents.

As a part of its “Joints for Jabs” campaign, Washington state offered free cannabis joints to those over the age of 21. The give-away only applies to state-licensed dispensaries, where a person can go to pick up one free pre-rolled joint after receiving either their first or second dose.

In May, New York City came up with the “Vax and Scratch” programme, in which lottery tickets with a maximum prize of $5m and a minimum prize of $20 were given through retailers for free. Under the programme, the lottery tickets were given away at 10 mass-vaccination sites in New York to those who have either had their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson.

Ohio state is running a weekly lottery as part of its “Vax-a-Million” programme, where it awards one lucky vaccinated Ohioan with a weekly prize of $1m. Under the programme, vaccinated minors are awarded a full scholarship to any four-year public university in the state.

As a part of its “Your Shot To Get Outdoors” drive, in May the state of Maine rolled out free fishing licences, baseball tickets and LL Bean Gift cards to encourage more residents to get vaccinated.

The Netherlands became the latest to join the list of countries offering rewards to those showing up for Covid jabs after this week announcing incentives including pickled herring, a traditional fish delicacy, to those getting their coronavirus jabs at participating centres.

Some programmes are more low-key. In Melbourne, a cinema group is offering free popcorn and choc-tops to those getting their jabs as part of its “Free Snacks for Vax” campaign.

And in the Mae Chaem district in Thailand, where most residents are farmers, authorities have launched a cow raffle. With up to 27 cows to be won in a lottery, officials said the successful campaign has seen nearly 50 per cent of 1,400 residents in the district register themselves for a vaccine.

Like Thailand, Indonesia has also turned to livestock, offering chickens as a way to boost vaccine enthusiasm among parts of its elderly and Muslim populations who are sceptical of the Covid jab amid worries over whether it is permissible in Islam.

Starting in July, Las Pinas in the Philippines is going to give away a “livelihood starter package” to 10 immunised residents each month. The $100 kit will include food and other grocery items, enough to start a small convenience store. Officials in another town of San Luis are raffling a cow each month to inoculated residents

And in Romania, people can claim a free portion of mici – a traditional meaty Romanian street snack – after getting their Covid shot.

The need to be given a reward in exchange for boosting one’s own immunity against a deadly pandemic may seem baffling to some, but medical researchers around the world feel that such inducements may be an effective way to increase vaccine uptake.

In an article published in The New England Journal of Medicine researchers state that “there is a certain logic to providing financial incentives, which may be used to offset the indirect costs of vaccination – including time spent planning appointments, travelling, or waiting; lost income for workers paid hourly; or expenses such as child care”.

“These costs disproportionately deter low-income people from getting vaccinated, and payments could ensure that vaccination is indeed ‘free’ to all,” it noted.

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