By Sushil Kutty
United States President Joe Biden is giving away $100 each to citizens who vaccinate. State and local governments have been told to draw from Biden’s $1.9 trillion ‘American Rescue Plan’ to incentivize vaccinations. The $100 incentive might “sound unfair” to those who have already vaccinated, but it’s “an extra incentive to boost vaccination rates, protect communities, and save lives,” said Biden.
The whole noble idea is to save lives, especially after learning that as many as 95% of new cases of Covid-19 are those who hadn’t been vaccinated. In many countries only a small percentage of the population has been vaccinated. Partly because of vaccine hesitancy. Partly because of the unavailability of vaccines in poor countries. Vaccine inequality is stark, and unjust to the extreme.
Maybe, just maybe, guilt conscience is also at work. African and Asian countries are facing acute vaccine crunch. And where there are vaccines, there are no takers. This despite the fact that vaccinating people helps everybody. President Joe Biden said it: “If incentives help us beat this virus, I believe we should use them. We all benefit if we can get more people vaccinated.”
Mind you, the coronavirus is still around. In the form of the highly contagious Delta variant. The Middle East is seeing a “fourth wave” because of Delta, and the reluctance of people to vaccinate. Delta has led to a “surge” in outbreaks, says the World Health Organization. “A fourth wave in the Middle East (countries), where vaccination rates remain low.”
In 15 out of 22 countries, to be specific. From Morocco to Pakistan. India is still waiting for the “third wave”. Apparently, the rise in covid-19 cases in Kerala doesn’t qualify for “third wave”. For that to be declared, there should be an abrupt and sharp rise in Covid-19 cases in the bell-weather states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, where the ‘Kanwariyas’ were expected to spread Covid-19 like wildfire, but were halted by the apex court.
But the ‘fourth wave’ in the Middle East is real. The “circulation of the Delta variant” is to blame. Of maximum concern, however, is the fact that most of the new cases and hospitalised patients are unvaccinated people. According to the WHO, only 41 million people, or 5.5 percent of the region’s population, had been fully vaccinated.”
No wonder there’s a race to vaccinate in the shortest possible time, a commodity which is fast running out. Therefore, ramping up vaccinations has become the most important task of almost every country, where incentives have acquired the halo of a catalyst. Governments are now offering incentives ranging from beer to cow, and cash cows.
If Israel is giving away frothy beer, Malaysia has lined up complimentary desserts! As per a Worldometer, more than 197.3 million people contracted Covid-19 globally of which 4,214,619 died. And the spectre of impending death should have been enough warning, or incentive, to go get vaccinated. But human nature is such that death doesn’t scare, instil fear, till it stares in the face.
But incentives might work. The Covid-19 pandemic has led to an outbreak of raffles, and lotteries – cash dividends. There are also ‘joints for jabs’ offers in various US states. In New York, anyone who takes a Covid-19 vaccine gets a cool $100 incentive. The same when done in California fetches $50. Winning beer and pastries are a bonus.
But it’s the cows on offer in a couple of Asian countries that should interest BJP-ruled states in India. A Philippines town is planning a cow raffle, and in Thailand local officials are luring people to vaccination centres with the offer of a fat cow! Shouldn’t the stingy, miserly Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party suggest to the Modi Government that cows be given in exchange for vaccinations?
As it is, there is no dearth of cows in India. With politicians such as Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, whose pictures with calves are the stuff of cow-legend, there cannot be a better way to incentivize people to get themselves vaccinated. India has all the cows in the world to spare. And so many of our sacred cows are left to pasture that giving them away to save millions of lives will be a priceless honour done to Gai Hamaari Mata. (IPA Service)