Free finals tickets and discounted trips: do vaccine rewards work?

By Jackson Graham

Friday September 24, 2021

Experts hold mixed views on whether financial incentives can break through vaccine hesitancy about COVID-19.
Experts hold mixed views on whether financial incentives can break through vaccine hesitancy about COVID-19. (Zoriana/Adobe)

Vaccinations in Queensland are scoring thousands of sports fans with NRL finals tickets while the Northern Territory is luring double-dosed tourists with generous discounts.  

But experts hold mixed views on whether financial incentives can break through vaccine hesitancy and agree there’s no silver bullet for wider coverage against COVID-19. 

Queensland’s announcement, offering 3000 double passes for people getting vaccinated at certain locations, raised questions at the Therapeutic Goods Commission on Thursday.

The TGA, which has a policy that only people who are fully vaccinated can be offered rewards, held discussions with the NRL and found it compliant — with only people who had or were to receive a second vaccination eligible for free tickets. 

“The TGA is constantly reviewing its vaccines incentives policy to ensure it meets the core goal of encouraging as many people as possible to get vaccinated,” a TGA spokeswoman told The Mandarin.

University of Sydney associate professor Tom van Laer, who studies the science of delivering narratives in public messaging, said incentives could influence uptake. 

“A variety of incentives has the greatest effect,” he said, pointing to paid vaccination leave and hospitality giveaways. “The more swiftly the incentives follow vaccination, the more effective they are likely to be.” 

But Holly Seale, an associate professor at University of New South Wales’ School of Population Health, believed the moment for incentives had passed. 

To be fair and equitable with the use of incentives, really they should have been introduced months and months ago to ensure whoever wanted to get vaccinated was eligible,” the infectious disease social scientist said. 

Seale said changing the minds of people hesitant to vaccination, who she estimated to be around 11% of the population, was best achieved by trained ambassadors reaching out to communities. “Maybe to the point of having mobile vans,” she said. 

Yet government messaging needed to acknowledge motivations to be vaccinated varied widely, Seale said, and that reducing the risk of severe disease was not necessarily the only driver. 

“I am a mum of two young kids and I got vaccinated for their health,” she said. “For others it might be the chance of travelling overseas, or going to a concert.” 

The Northern Territory unveiled a nationwide-first this week to incentivise fully vaccinated tourists to travel, offering up to $1000 off bookings made for trips between next month and March 31, 2022. 

The government hopes the $5 million dollar plan will deliver more visitors in the territory’s low season.  

Seale acknowledged that government ‘road maps’, particularly in locked-down states, already included incentives for vaccinated people once double-dose targets were met. 

“The incentive would be if you’re a vaccinated person you are then eligible to go out and catch up with people and go to a pub or restaurant,” she said. “That’s a non-financial incentive and may nudge some people.”


‘Get vaccinated’, medical fraternity urges Aussies

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