By Orville Williams
As the expiration date for thousands of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines fast approaches, the government is doubling up on its efforts to encourage residents to get vaccinated, with four weekly “lotteries” valued at a total $20,000.
Reports yesterday were that approximately 6,000 of the doses that were on island prior to receipt of Wednesday’s additional vaccines through COVAX, are set to expire at the end of the month. In order to avoid them going to waste, therefore, urgent measures were needed to get them into the arms of residents before June 30.
During yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing, Information Minister Melford Nicholas announced that amid this urgency, the Cabinet collectively decided on the lottery as an additional vaccination incentive.
He explained that everyone who has taken a first vaccine dose since the public vaccination programme began in March will be immediately eligible to participate; the only exceptions will be the immediate families of Parliamentarians.
The lottery will be drawn on a weekly basis, with $5,000 up for grabs for each of the four weeks. There will also be no need for residents to register for the lottery, as the data taken by the Health Ministry throughout the vaccination process will be used to form the pool from which the weekly winner will be chosen.
The move comes just a week after it was announced that everyone who has taken a first vaccine dose between June 7 and June 30 will be entered into a raffle for an 8,000-square-foot parcel of land at Judges Hill, valued at EC $68,000.
According to Nicholas, news of that land raffle piqued the interest of many in the country, but also left some residents feeling aggrieved, as they could not participate on account of being vaccinated before June 7.
“We have certainly received some feedback and we think it’s in order that no one should feel disenfranchised or disadvantaged. Accordingly, [this] incentive will be made available to all persons who have been vaccinated,” Nicholas said.
Along with the land and now the cash, the government – through the Health Ministry – has previously partnered with some private sector companies to offer other incentives, such as fuel and supermarket vouchers.
Those, Nicholas added, served to boost the vaccination figures by attracting numbers of non-citizen Caribbean residents in particular.
“The minister did give an indication that the incentives the government has put in place seem to have worked, certainly with our Caribbean citizens who are residents here. They seem to have responded well to the initiative in terms of coming forward for their vaccines.
“Both the Minister of Immigration and several other persons who were aware of the traffic, have indicated that there has been a positive response to [those initiatives].”
While the health officials are scrambling to meet the expiration deadline for the aforementioned doses, they will also be planning to put the additional doses to work as soon as possible, after receiving the outstanding vaccine allotment through the COVAX facility this week.