Sask. Opposition proposes $25K lottery for fully vaccinated residents

·3 min read
Saskatchewan continues to administer first doses, including a school-based program. The opposition NDP would like to see a lottery prize awarded to a fully vaccinated resident. (Bonnie Allen/CBC  - image credit)
Saskatchewan continues to administer first doses, including a school-based program. The opposition NDP would like to see a lottery prize awarded to a fully vaccinated resident. (Bonnie Allen/CBC - image credit)

Saskatchewan's Opposition NDP is proposing a $25,000 lottery for residents who are fully vaccinated.

Opposition Leader Ryan Meili is calling the proposed incentive the "last mile lottery."

"An incentive like the one we propose here today would be an excellent way to get all hands on deck — especially as we are still in a race between the vaccines and the variants, particularly the Delta variant (B.1.617) that is more aggressive and resistant," said NDP Leader Ryan Meili on Monday.

The $25,000 prize is the equivalent to the cost of admitting a COVID-19 patient to an intensive care unit, Meili said.

Provincial Minister of Health Paul Merriman responded to Meili's proposal Monday, saying the province is not considering vaccination incentives.

"We believe that protecting yourself and those around you from COVID-19 and ensuring Saskatchewan can reopen safely are pretty strong incentives for everyone to get vaccinated," Merriman said in a statement. "It appears that most Saskatchewan people would agree, as we continue to see strong uptake in our COVID-19 vaccination program."

The NDP made several other proposals aimed at increasing vaccine turnout:

  • Mobile clinics offered in areas of low uptake and public spaces.

  • Training callers and community leaders to answers questions and promote vaccination.

  • Outreach to residents who have yet to be vaccinated.

Meili said the SHA should be calling all residents who are eligible to be vaccinated, but have yet to get their first shot.

He said the callers could both book an appointment and answer vaccine questions.

Meili said one of the motivations for the lottery is the province's first dose vaccine totals slowing. He specifically mentioned the 30 to 50 age group.

As of Monday, 50,000 people aged 40 to 49 — 33 per cent — had yet to receive their first dose. In the 30 to 39 age category, 44 per cent, or 81,000 people, had not received their initial shot.

The government has recently transitioned its focus to second dose rollout. Over the last week, second doses have outpaced first doses.

As of Monday, Saskatchewan had vaccinated 56.7 per cent of its population with a first dose, ninth among the 10 provinces. Prince Edward Island was the lowest at 52.7 per cent, while Alberta was ahead of Saskatchewan at 56.9 per cent.

"Unfortunately what we've seen recently is Saskatchewan vaccine numbers falling behind other provinces," said NDP health critic Vicki Mowat.

Saskatchewan's position when it comes to second doses is stronger. The province has vaulted to second place with 11.7 per cent fully vaccinated, behind Alberta's 11.9 per cent.

Manitoba offers incentives

Last week, the Manitoba government announced it was setting aside $1 million for grants of up to $20,000 that groups can use to reach out to people hesitant about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

The grants will be available to cultural, arts, education, sports, religious, community and business organizations that can prove they can reach vaccine-hesitant people.

"We need Manitobans to continue to do two things: get a vaccine as soon as possible and follow the public health orders," Premier Brian Pallister said on Thursday.

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