Over the last few months, growing concern over the slow rate of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout has put further stress on Australia’s health and economic recovery. So far, roughly 12.4 million vaccinations have been administered across the country – a number Labor leader Anthony Albanese wants to see changed quickly.
Overnight, Albanese suggested the government provide a one-off $300 payment to anyone who gets themselves fully vaccinated by December 1, 2021. The cast payment would also be offered to those who have already been vaccinated.
“The Government has guaranteed that Australia will have more than enough vaccines to meet the 80 percent target by 1 December,” Mr Albanese said in a statement.
“The faster this is achieved, the faster the recovery as we emerge from the lockdowns that are bleeding hundreds of millions of dollars a day from the nation’s finances.”
“The government has failed on its two jobs this year, the rollout of the vaccine and fixing quarantine,” Albanese continued. “It needs to use every measure at its disposal to protect Australians and our economy.”
The government has aimed for a 70 percent vaccine coverage for lockdowns to be reduced and an 80 percent vaccine coverage for lockdowns to be completely eliminated.
The government’s Chief Medical Officer, Paul Kelly, has publicly expressed his support for incentives to get more of the population vaccinated. Back in May, Professor Kelly said “…we really do need to look for incentives, as many incentives as we can for people to become vaccinated.”
However, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham believes Albanese’s idea is unnecessary and would prove unsuccessful.
“We’re seeing daily records set in the number of Australians turning out and getting vaccinated,” Birmingham said.
“It’s a bit insulting to the many millions of Australians who are already doing the right thing, who are planning on doing the right thing, and know full well the reason they [should] get vaccinated is to protect their health and the health of their fellow Australians.”
Albanese’s cash-incentive plan is estimated to stimulate the economy by up to $6 billion.
However, The Australian has reported that the federal government is settling on “freedom incentives” over cash payments.
The Behavioural Economics Team of the Australian Government recently came out with research which showed that financial incentives would “unlikely to drive vaccine uptake in Australia”.
Last month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledged that some people were reluctant to get the AstraZeneca vaccine after official advice recommended the Pfizer shot was preferable for those under 60.
Since then, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation has reiterated its advice that the benefits of receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine in Greater Sydney outweigh any risk of rare side effects for all age groups.
The financial incentive strategy to get more people inoculated is not original.
Last week, U.S President Joe Biden called on state and local officials to offer Americans $US100 in cash payments as an incentive to receive a vaccination.
It was his administration’s latest attempt to try to get people vaccinated as the highly contagious delta variant continues to spread. Some U.S states, including Ohio and Colorado, have even run lotteries worth millions of dollars, and given away college scholarships to students in order to encourage people to get vaccinated.