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Vaccine incentives? Premier Jason Kenney says it could be an option

Last Updated May 28, 2021 at 8:01 pm MDT

EDMONTON — Could Alberta start offering incentives for people to get vaccinated?

Premier Jason Kenney says he has asked the province’s health department to consider creative options, even financial incentives.

In the U.S., Ohio is offering a chance at $1 million to all those who got the vaccine.

“There was a lot of mockery and ridicule, but apparently it worked,” said Kenney. “The week that they announced this they saw a 45 per cent increase in new vaccine registration.”

As of Friday afternoon, 60.3 per cent of eligible Albertans have already rolled up their sleeve, the only incentive: protecting ourselves and others from COVID-19.

RELATED: 60% of Albertans 12+ now partially vaccinated, Stage 2 of reopening plan could begin June 10

But an Epidemiologist in an interview with 660NEWS says we will get to the point where incentives are necessary, but we’re not there yet.

“Right now there’s more demand than supply, but eventually we’ll start running up against that extreme hesitancy, and at that point we could explore some options,” said Dr. Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist at the University of Ottawa.

The issue: Is it ethical? Is it exploiting someone who is financially vulnerable? Will you have people start waiting for financial incentives?

That’s why some states have looked at scholarships, or lottery systems, including those vaccinated before it was announced, instead of outright paying someone to get the shot.

READ MORE: Mostly younger patients at Calgary COVID-19 long-hauler clinics

“You’re just buying someone’s body for the afternoon. You haven’t won their hearts and minds over for the science of vaccination,” said Deonandan.

It’s a debate we will hear more about as we push to get herd immunity with vaccines.

But Kenney says, for now, they are eying more vaccine sites in certain areas and reaching out to employers.

“Eventually we’ll get into a game of inches, and maybe incentives like that will be helpful. No decisions have been made at this point though,” Kenney said.

Alberta’s reopening plan relies on 70 per cent of those eligible get their first dose.

And the premier says an announcement about timelines for booking second doses is coming next week.