What are the benefits of getting vaccinated against COVID-19? It prevents you from getting seriously ill if you get infected with the virus, it keeps you from spreading the virus and once fully vaccinated, you can go back to doing many things the way they were done before the pandemic hit.
But it now seems like these benefits are not enough. With vaccine hesitancy and the number of anti-vaxxers on the rise, vaccine benefits don’t just mean increased immunity against the virus anymore. Many private organisations and some local governments are coming together with the idea of vaccine incentives to encourage more people to get the jab. Let’s take a look at what is being offered around the world.
The latest report has said that only 3.6% of India’s population has been vaccinated (as of June 13, 2021). In more than 11 states, only 5% of the total population has been vaccinated so far. Many businesses are offering discounts and freebies to promote vaccination in the country. Businesses in India are coming up with giveaways, discounts and special schemes to support the inoculation drive in the country. McDonalds is offering a 20% discount on food, Beer Café’, India’s largest alcoholic beverages chain, is also offering a 20% discount on the final bill after people get their second jab. Beer Café’ has 35 stores across India. Another beverage-focused chain, Chaayos, of offering a free cup of tea to those who get their first jab. Uber has decided to offer free rides up to INR 300 ($6) to vaccination centres. Local malls and shopping centres also have multiple stores offering sales and discounts to people who are getting vaccinated. This is to of course encourage people to get vaccinated and is good for business as well.
The problem runs deeper than vaccine hesitancy in India. Vaccine shortage is serious in the country and has become a cause for concern. One of the state governments had to pause their inoculation programme for three days because of a vaccine shortage. The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has allowed foreign vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna to be approved and used in the country without clinical trials. The US has promised to send 25 million doses of vaccine to India.
It’s not just India though where the vaccine perk programme is going on. In Texas, USA, a group of people concerned about the dip in the number of people getting vaccinated has in fact created a website so people can be more aware of the perks they will receive if they get vaccinated. The website has a list of Covid-19 promotions by different US states. The most interesting one remains the ‘joints for jabs’ programme and also the fact that many dating apps have partnered with multiple governments to offer incentives to people to get vaccinated. In another case, a strip club in Las Vegas converted into a walk-in vaccine clinic and has reported steady walk-in numbers. Some people in this report also admitted that the reason that prompted them to get vaccinated was that it was happening at a strip club.
Which begs the question, how much do these incentives really work? There have been a few studies and it’s not clear. As the NYT reported, when Ohio announced $1 million dollar lottery prizes scheme the vaccination rate went up from 15,000 tp 26,000. But as it says here, it coincided with the time when the eligibility window also widened for younger people.
The Kaiser Family Foundation has done a study on the effect of vaccine incentives and found that 15% of people who are unwilling to get vaccinated might change their attitude if tempted with an incentive. In some cases, it might also backfire and cement people’s mistrust in the government and the effectiveness of the vaccine.