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Brian Dijkema

Cardus calls for vaccine incentives

  • May 27, 2021

OTTAWA -- Offering a financial carrot to make sure Canadians get fully vaccinated would be a good path to herd immunity, according to a new policy paper from the religious think tank Cardus.

A financial incentive would be a boost in the arm to the vaccination effort and allow for severe restrictions against public gatherings such as attending worship services to be lifted sooner

A proposal put forward by Cardus would see Canadians receive a cash incentive of up to $90 to be spent at local businesses and charities, two sectors of the economy severely impacted by the restrictions that have been in place since the global pandemic started 15 months ago.

“As vaccine supply improves in Canada, now is the right time to provide Canadians with an incentive to avoid complacency and to keep our vaccination momentum going so we can beat this pandemic,” said Cardus vice-president of external affairs Brian Dijkema.

The policy paper, prepared by Dijkema and University of Toronto Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy assistant professor Sean Speer, says “vaccine incentives have a track-record of success … (I)n jurisdictions like Australia, where vaccine incentives are in place, immunization coverage exceeds 90 per cent.”

“Our proposal encourages this participation by providing Canadians with an incentive that not only helps individuals, but the whole community. Local businesses and charities have been particularly hard hit during this pandemic, and an incentive you can spend helping a local restaurant or charity recognizes that the only way out of this pandemic is together.”

Policymakers need to “seize any measure” to bring an end to the pandemic and the restrictions that have harmed mental well-being and the economy, according to the paper.

“The research and evidence tell us that the sweet spot for vaccination demand is the adoption of public-policy incentives that account for both material and moral motivations. The incentive would encourage vaccinations, address an existing policy challenge that local communities face and that has a broader impact on provinces and the nation as a whole.”

As of May 21, statistics show that just under half of all Canadians have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the different vaccines that are available in Canada.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said the federal government expects to be able to vaccinate every Canadian who wants to be vaccinated by the end of June and have all Canadians fully vaccinated by September.

That aggressive timeline depends on Canadians who have received one dose following through and getting their second dose. The example of other nations shows many may not.

Cardus’ incentive proposal is a means to make sure Canadians continue to be vaccinated.  

“We have seen vaccine uptake in the United States plateau,” said Dijkema, to the point where more Canadians have now received their first vaccine compared to Americans — 48.95 per cent Canadians vs. 48.2 per cent of Americans, though full vaccination in Canada lags far behind the U.S.

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