Handing out cash for Covid-19 vaccine jabs pays off, Swedish study finds

The vaccination rate increased by 4 per cent among participants who were offered money to get the jab. PHOTO: AFP

STOCKHOLM (BLOOMBERG) - A Swedish study found that a modest 200 Swedish kronor (S$31) incentive increased vaccination rates, lending support to measures that aim to get more people to take Covid-19 jabs by handing out cash.

The study, led by researchers at Lund University, found that the vaccination rate increased by 4 per cent among participants who were offered money to get the jab. The effect was seen across all ages, genders and levels of education, Dr Erik Wengstrom, professor of economics at Lund University, said.

"This indicates that monetary incentives have the potential to increase the rate among people regardless of background," Dr Wengstrom said in a statement. "The results also show that the incentives have an effect even in countries with relatively high vaccination levels, such as Sweden."

As countries across the developed world are struggling to get Covid-19 vaccination rates up to desired levels, many have offered a wide array of incentives to boost people's willingness to take the jab, from lottery tickets with large cash prizes to discounts on pizza and flights.

After US President Joe Biden called for local officials to offer US$100 (S$136) to anyone who gets vaccinated, states including New York and Louisiana have followed suit.

In Europe, incentives are rarer, with countries such as France opting instead to mandate shots for health workers and demand that restaurant-goers show proof of vaccination.

Despite having neither cash incentives nor mandates, Sweden's vaccination rate is slightly above the European Union average at 79 per cent of the adult population, but the research from Lund University shows handing out cash could be one way of increasing it further, at a limited cost.

"There is no detailed cost analysis in the study, but it is reasonable to assume that it would be cost-effective for society," according to Dr Pol Campos-Mercade, one of the researchers.

"The incentives can be considered as a stimulus package, transferring money from the government to people's pockets, which at the same time would save people's lives."

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