Incentivising vaccination, US style

Tamil Nadu to vaccinate all Nilgiri advasis by June-end
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Tamil Nadu to vaccinate all Nilgiri advasis by June-end

Highlights

Don't want to be vaccinated? Afraid? Don't care? Well, reconsider it

Don't want to be vaccinated? Afraid? Don't care? Well, reconsider it. If you are a US citizen and seek a free beer. Perhaps, this is what is called fighting the battle 'every witch way'. The White House's new partnership with Anheuser-Busch offering free beers if the country reaches its goal of getting 70 per cent of adults at least one Covid-19 vaccine shot by July 4 - almost prohibition in reverse - is more than a gimmick.

It's a headline that heralds a widening, more micro-targeted approach to getting skeptical Americans vaccinated against Covid-19 and a shift from an approach that saw mass vaccination sites in stadiums earlier this year. Interesting? Yeah? (Who says many Indians are illiterate and hence don't come forward for vaccinations)? It's also a sign of growing concern about slowing inoculation rates, fears that millions of unprotected Americans could be vulnerable to new viral spikes in the fall and a desire to preserve the miracle wrought by vaccines.

After several days in which Dr. Anthony Fauci's just-released emails painted a picture of foreboding at the beginning of the crisis last year, President Joe Biden conjured up the prospect of a Covid-free future at the White House. *Get a shot and have a beer. Free beer for everyone 21 years or over to celebrate the independence from the virus,"* he said on June 2.

There's more than free booze on offer from the teetotaller Biden and his web of private sector partnerships announced on June 2 to convince skeptics to get vaccinated. Go for a trim in a Black-owned barbershop - traditional community hubs - and a Covid-19 vaccine comes at no extra cost. Parents who get the shots can get free child care while they're inoculated. Cities will compete to grow vaccination rates. Employers can cash in tax credits if they let workers feeling side effects from the vaccine take time off. Out of the box? Isn't it so?

States like Ohio have gone ahead with tagging million dollar lotteries for the vaccinated too. Incentives are flooding the markets of the US. Free tickets for sports enthusiasts and so on and so forth. The US needs to do all this now because people are not any more afraid of the virus. They know that a single shot of vaccine is protecting them and as many of the people have already inoculated, the fear of contracting the virus is diminishing. This precisely is the reason why the US is stepping up with incentives.

"Because we have had so much success early on, we are now getting to the part of the campaign which is tougher," Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told the media. The new White House vaccine push reflects important public health, economic and political considerations. All said and done, the fear of new human misery, after nearly 600,000 US deaths from Covid-19, is a powerful motivating factor.

The return of the virus with a vengeance in some regions could also hamper the economic rebound, which has been halting in places amid complications in getting millions of Americans back to work. Does India learn a lesson with this? We are also seeing our pyres burning. Could we emulate the good instead of adopting only the bad from the world?

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