Governments and businesses in Asia and North America are offering prizes or gifts to people who get vaccinated against COVID-19. The awards include money, animals, apartments, beer and more.
From Thailand to Indonesia to Hong Kong, Asian governments are offering different vaccination prizes.
In Thailand’s Mae Chaem area in northern Chiang Mai, most residents raise cows. So local officials have launched a cow raffle this month. A raffle is a game that involves people getting numbered tickets in exchange for a chance to win a prize.
Sixty-five-year-old Inkham Thongkham won a one-year-old female cow worth $320 after he received his coronavirus vaccine.
Thongkham described the prize as “the best gift ever.”
Officials said the campaign, now in its second week, had led more than 50 percent of people in the area to sign up to get vaccines.
Many across Asia have been unsure about getting vaccinated, with widespread disinformation fueling concerns about vaccines.
In Hong Kong, free airline flights and a new apartment worth $1.4 million are among the prizes being offered to those who have been vaccinated. Some businesses in the Chinese territory have gone even further, offering paid time off to vaccinated individuals.
Even in countries hit hard by the coronavirus, such as Indonesia, governments have struggled to reduce vaccine fears. Among Indonesian Muslims - who make up more than 85 percent of the nation's population - many are worried whether the vaccines are considered halal, or permissible, by Islam.
Asep Saepudin is a 67-year-old resident of Cipanas, in Indonesia’s West Java province. "I was afraid that if I was vaccinated, I would die immediately ... Then there was more worrying news that this vaccine contained pork,” Saepudin said.
Officials in Cipanas say it has been especially difficult to persuade the elderly that the vaccines are safe and halal. As in Thailand, officials have also turned to animal prizes, offering live chickens for each elderly, or older, person who gets a shot.
"Elderly people don't want to be vaccinated for various reasons. Some say they want to but don't come, some are even afraid,” said the local police chief, Galih Aprian. “So we reward (their vaccinations) with chickens.”
Asia is not the only part of the world where governments are giving prizes for vaccinations. Many American states are doing it too.
California Governor Gavin Newsom, for example, recently gave out $1.5 million each to 10 vaccinated winners to mark the end of the state’s coronavirus restrictions.
The $15 million total was the final part of Newsom’s $116.5 million “Vax for the Win” program. It was part of a larger effort to persuade residents to get vaccinated and speed up California’s recovery in the COVID-19 pandemic.
The National Governors Association’s website gives a list of different gift or prize programs U.S. states offer. Some of the programs give money, while others offer different experiences.
The website notes that in Alabama, the Talladega Superspeedway offered people aged 16 and older the chance to drive their car or truck on the race track.
In the month of May, New Jersey partnered with different beer makers, known as breweries, to give people over the age of 21 a free beer. The program had special conditions and required evidence of vaccination.
Emily Largent of the University of Pennsylvania is an expert on medical issues and health policy. Largent told AARP that using gifts or prizes can appeal to different kinds of people as a way to get them to seek the vaccine.
Largent suggested the offers may be helpful for people who are less concerned about the public health benefits of vaccinations.
I’m John Russell.
John Russell adapted this story based on Reuters and Associated Press reports. Bryan Lynn was the editor.
Words in This Story
reward – v. money or another kind of payment that is given or received for something that has been done or that is offered for something that might be done
track – n. an often circular path or road that is used for racing
benefit – n. a good or helpful result