Pay people to get COVID-19 vaccine, suggests a researcher

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on November 06, 2020 Published on November 06, 2020

Ofering incentives would make more people opt vaccination

According to an opinion piece written by a leading ethicist for the Journal of Medical Ethics, the government should pay people to get inoculated by the COVID-19 vaccine.

The researcher believes that incentivizsng the process could make over 80 per cent of the population get the COVID-19 jab.

The incentive could be of any kind either financial or forego the need to wear facemasks in public.

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The author, Professor Julian Savulescu, Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford pointed out that given the rising global death toll and the far-reaching health and economic consequences of the pandemic, there have been calls, including in the UK, to mandate COVID-19 vaccination, if and when a jab is approved.

He further wrote that vaccination should be voluntary, in general. But there is a strong case for making any vaccination mandatory (or compulsory) if four conditions are met: a grave threat to public health; the vaccine is safe and effective; the pros outweigh the cons of any suitable alternative, and the level of coercion is proportionate.

He suggested that if voluntary schemes fail, the health administration needs to move to Vaccination Plan B.

There are examples of coercion for the public good: conscription during wartime; taxes; the wearing of seat belts. And mandatory vaccination policies are already in place in different parts of the world, he said.

He recommended that if the voluntary vaccination proves insufficient, incentivisation should be considered to address these issues while boosting vaccination uptake.

He further wrote: “To be maximally effective, particularly in protecting the most vulnerable in the population, vaccination would need to achieve herd immunity (the exact percentage of the population that would need to be immune for herd immunity to be reached depends on various factors, but current estimates range up to 82 per cent).”

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The author believes that vaccine coercion is not a viable way out of the pandemic as in an ideal world, the vaccine would be proven to be 100 per cent safe. But there will likely be some risk remaining, and there are risks that have not yet been identified.

“So we cannot say whether a mandatory policy of COVID-19 vaccination is ethically justified until we can assess the nature of the vaccine, the gravity of the problem and the likely costs/benefit of alternatives,” he argued.

He recommended: “Payment isn’t about coercion. If a person chooses that option, it is because they believe that, overall, their life will go better with it, in this case, with the vaccination and the payment.”

“A payment model could also be very cheap, compared to the alternatives. The cost of the UK’s furlough scheme is estimated to reach £60 billion by its [original] planned end in October, and the economic shut down is likely to cost many billions more, as well as the estimated 200, 000 lives expected to be lost as a result,” he speculated.

Suggesting different incentives, he said: “One attractive benefit would be the freedom to travel, to not wear a mask in public places if you carried a vaccination certificate, and not to social distance. Moreover, it would help ameliorate the risks the unvaccinated would pose to others.”

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Published on November 06, 2020
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