Instead, some countries, cities and companies around the world are using the carrot instead of the stick. Many places have offered free vaccinations and tried to make access easy, such as at drive-through sites. Some politicians in Britain, Hong Kong and elsewhere have floated the idea of direct payments to anyone who vaccinates. Other places have already begun to offer an array of material enticements.
Here’s a look at some of the coronavirus vaccine incentives in place around the world.
Lower property taxes
Israel has the world’s highest rate of vaccinated citizens and residents, followed by the United Arab Emirates. But the country of 9 million people has also come under scrutiny for its strategy: offering vaccine-maker Pfizer access to its health-care database in exchange for premium access to doses. Israel has additionally faced criticism from Palestinians and human rights groups, who say the country is obligated to extend its vaccine distribution to populations in the Israeli military-occupied Palestinian territories.
Despite the steady rates of vaccine uptake, Israel, in the midst of another lockdown, is keen to keep going. That prompted Ran Konik, the mayor of Givatayim, east of Tel Aviv, on Wednesday to offer a discount on property taxes to families in which everyone above the age of 16 is vaccinated through the end of the month. His announcement, via Twitter, did not provide further details, such as the discount amount.
Other localized proposals have hit legal snags. On Tuesday the mayor of Lod in central Israel said that unvaccinated people will be barred from certain municipal buildings and services, Ha’aretz reported. Such a move, however, would violate Israeli law as the vaccine is not mandatory. On Thursday, Israeli media reported that a military unit planned to require unvaccinated soldiers to wear a fluorescent vest to distinguish themselves — an idea the Israeli Defense Forces soon after said was not a valid order and could not be applied.
Dubai, the glitzy commercial and tourism hub of the United Arab Emirates, has recorded a spike in cases after months of business as almost usual. The city reopened to travelers in the summer, saying that it could not afford to keep shut its tourism and hospitality-dependent economy. That gamble left low-paid laborers, many who are migrant workers from South Asia, especially vulnerable to the pandemic. In recent weeks, business has again dwindled.
But the wealthy city has been able to procure coronavirus vaccines, which it began to offer to its 3 million citizens and residents free in December. Dubai is offering doses of two vaccines — the Chinese-developed Sinopharm and Pfizer-BioNTech — first to people older than 60 or with chronic health conditions. The city has seen some vaccine tourism: In mid-January, a famous singer and his son received their shots in Dubai after holding a large New Year’s concert, prompting public backlash.
Businesses see inoculation as the path back to tourism. One chain of restaurants, run by Gates Hospitality, has an offer it’s hoping will incentivize vaccination and attract customers: a discount of 10 percent for diners who can show proof they’ve had the first dose, and 20 percent off for both doses.
“The initiative is really to create awareness,” the group’s chief executive and founder, Naim Maadad, told NBC News in January.
Instacart, Trader Joe’s, Amtrak, Aldi and Dollar General are among grocery and other companies in the United States offering various bonuses for employees who get vaccinated. Service-industry workers have been at the forefront of the pandemic — and in turn at the front lines of efforts to increase their labor rights and protections.
In the latest development, Instacart said it will provide a bonus of $25 to workers who get inoculated. Dollar General, among others, will offer employees up to four hours of paid time to get both shots.
Some companies not based in the United States are offering similar incentives to their U.S.-based employees. German discount supermarket chain Lidl has allocated $200 to each employee who completes their coronavirus vaccination regimen, Yahoo News reported. JBS, a Brazilian meatpacking company and its subsidiary, Pilgrim Pride, will pay each worker at their U.S. operations $100 to get vaccinated, according to Bloomberg News.
Throughout the pandemic, countries have struggled to both keep borders open and the virus out. Initially, some places with similarly low infection counts formed “travel corridors.” As testing became more accessible, many countries began to impose rules requiring a negative coronavirus result before entering, often instead of or in addition to a quarantine period.
Now with vaccinations beginning, some governments are looking to incentivize getting the shot with travel perks.
Denmark on Wednesday announced it was partnering with a private company to develop a digital passport, which would allow travelers to bypass some restrictions by showing a trusted proof of inoculation. Acting finance minister Morten Boedskov said in a news conference that the program would be ready in several months and the government would discuss its use for non-travel reasons at a later point, the Associated Press reported.
The Ministry of Health in Israel, among other governments, has also floated plans for issuing “green passports” showing proof of inoculation, which could then become mandatory to enter certain places.