A lottery open only to those who get vaccinated? Free tickets to see a pro sports game?
Some jurisdictions in the United States have used such incentives to persuade people to get the COVID-19 vaccine — and Manitoba’s premier thinks some form of persuasion may be needed here, too
Following a committee meeting at the legislature Friday, Premier Brian Pallister said a summer reopening plan may be unveiled in two weeks — if enough Manitobans embrace COVID-19 vaccinations.
He’s concerned the current rush of Manitobans ready to roll up their sleeves for a dose won’t last. To achieve herd immunity, at least 70 per cent of the population needs to get vaccinated, public health officials say.
"Our major focus right now is getting people vaccinated," Pallister said. "That will be part of the plan, clearly, to incent people.
"I think with the speed of our team’s vaccine rollout, you’re going to go fairly quickly from people waiting (for a shot), to us having to persuade. That’s what’s happened in many other jurisdictions in the U.S. I think that will happen here."
It is already.
One Winnipeg auto dealer is offering those under the age of 30 who book a COVID-19 vaccination the free use of a Tesla for a week. "We can’t get back to normal until we get our young Manitobans vaccinated," says the social media post by Nott Autocorp.
Mondetta Clothing is offering its 100 employees in Winnipeg a $300 bonus if they get vaccinated. Chief executive officer Ash Modha is challenging other CEOs to do likewise.
"This is an idea to make people less hesitant about vaccines... and get back to normal," Modha said Friday. "This is part of being a good employer. A for-profit company can do good things and look after its workers."
In the U.S., where the vaccine supply outstrips demand, the governor of Ohio announced Wednesday the state will award, in a draw, five vaccinated residents US$1 million each in an effort to raise vaccination percentage.
Maryland will pay fully-vaccinated state employees US$100. In New Jersey, there’s a "shot-and-a-beer" program, with breweries giving out free drinks to adults who get vaccinated. In New York City, fans who get vaccinated at ballparks before games will get free tickets to Yankees and Mets games.
Presenting Manitobans with a summer reopening plan — with vaccination targets and goals for where the province needs to be in terms of lowered COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in order to scale back restrictions — may be the best incentive to get vaccinated, said NDP Leader Wab Kinew.
"Maybe we can show them that light at the end of the tunnel, and what it looks like," suggested Kinew, who acknowledged the high number of new COVID-19 cases in recent days is "very, very serious."
"Maybe we could have that reopening plan release, not to say, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do right away’ but, ‘If we all band together to beat the third wave, here’s the sort of summer we could all look ahead to,’" Kinew said Friday.
"The premier has tried to use the stick," he said, referring to the premier’s use of enforcement measures and "shaming" rule-breakers. "Why not use the carrot?"
The benefits of reopening this summer, and young people being able to get summer jobs, are significant, the premier said. So is the tourism industry.
"We know the sooner we can get more people vaccinated, the better," Pallister said Friday. "The sooner we can get the border open safely, the better."
After the meeting, Pallister said North Dakota’s offer to share its surplus vaccine and ship it to Manitoba has not been approved by the White House.
"I’m pretty sure they’ve kiboshed it," Pallister said, referring to the U.S. federal government. "But North Dakota and Manitoba are still in a dialogue... I hope to be able to tell you more on that in the not too distant future. We’re working very hard on that."
The province should look to its neighbour to the west for answers, and find out why Saskatchewan has nearly the same number of COVID-19 cases as Manitoba, but half as many deaths, Liberal health critic (and physician) Jon Gerrard said Friday.
Saskatchewan had recorded 44,159 cases and 515 deaths as of Friday, compared to Manitoba’s 44,189 cases and 1,002 deaths.
"The differences... are so great that it demands an investigation and review as to why Manitoba has had almost twice and many deaths as Saskatchewan and virtually the same number of cases of COVID-19," he said.
— with files from Dylan Robertson
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.