EDMONTON — As the province continues the push to reach the 70 per cent mark of Albertans with their first COVID-19 vaccination dose, ideas around incentives are beginning to take shape.
On Friday, Alberta reported 67.8 per cent of the population aged 12 and over had received at least one dose.
At a media availability, Premier Jason Kenney said the province was "so close" to reaching the 70 per cent threshold needed to move toward Step 3 of the reopening plan.
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A part of the plan to help drive vaccination rates to meet that threshold and beyond could be vaccine incentives, the premier said.
“I know that when Ohio led the pack on this about three, four weeks back, there was a lot of ridicule towards them, but they saw an immediate and huge uptick in vaccination rates,” Kenney said on Thursday.
One expert also agrees that incentives may work, if done properly, to encourage people to get the jab.
“You want to make sure you’re incentivizing the right message," said Tim Caulfield, professor and health policy expert at the University of Alberta.
"You want to make sure you’re not sending the message that ‘we’re paying you to do this to get the vaccine."
Many businesses in Alberta have already created incentives of their own, from free food and beverages to free tuition, for those who have received their COVID-19 immunization.
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Caulfield says that there’s some evidence from the United States to show that incentives work when it comes to encouraging people to get vaccinated, especially with those individuals that are complacent.
“Those individuals that might be somewhat hesitant, this might change the calculus for them,” said Caulfield. “For those individuals that are hardcore deniers, it’s probably not going to have an impact.”
Caulfield says there’s evidence to suggest that misinformation around the COVID-19 vaccination could be having an impact on uptake.
“I think It’s important to emphasize the degree to which this is crunch time,” said Caulfield. “The degree to which we have to think about every single barrier that might be stopping people from getting vaccinated.”
Government officials are planning to announce details about the province’s vaccine incentives next week.