Should we pay young people to get vaccinated? 

Libby Purves (pictured) said incentives such as fast-food vouchers could work in Britain


By Libby Purves   

You hear them on every vox-pop — the young jab refusers. They’re not all nutters with mad theories about microchips hidden in the vaccine and they’re not all from the tiny minority who have medical reasons not to get jabbed.

Mostly it’s vague hesitation, laziness, an arrogant horror of queueing anywhere that isn’t a nightclub, or a babyish fear of needles (just don’t look, kids! It’s a teeny scratch!).

Whatever their reasons, we need more hesitaters and deniers vaccinated. The more of us who are jabbed, the safer everyone is from serious illness and lockdowns.

Authorities across the world have tried persuasion, and some are moving towards what they mutteringly call ‘incentivisation’: in other words, bribes. In Ohio, you can get a lottery ticket for a jab, some states offer money or discounts, and in West Virginia, locals could win a shotgun.

For a while, they gave out ready-rolled cannabis joints in Washington State. Now Europe is dangling the carrot, too, with the Swedes offering youngsters £17 each.

Many people hate the idea of bribes. In Britain, we have a traditional ‘it’s for your own good’ attitude, and dislike the idea almost as much as forcing vaccines on people. But I say, bribe them!

Let’s offer fast-food vouchers or free hairdos 

Get firms to act as sponsors: I believe Krispy Kreme doughnuts did in the U.S., as did a brewery in Washington DC (‘shot and a beer!’).

In New York, there were baseball tickets for Mets and Yankees games. We could have fast-food vouchers, or ask salons to offer nail art or hairdos (as a student, a free cut at Vidal Sassoon would have had me rolling up my sleeves in seconds).

Some who sensibly got vaccinated early will be irritated, like the Prodigal Son’s elder brother in the Bible when his irresponsible sibling got the fatted calf. Never mind.

Mr Gove preaching that refusers are ‘selfish’ will just inspire defiance and offence; vague plans to bar them from football or nightclubs will only get tangled up in an interminable human-rights argument.

So go for bribery! Accept that many of these people are just large, petulant toddlers. And what any fraught mother in extremis does is to stop scolding and buy a bit of co-operation. Smarties work, so do promises to go and feed the ducks. It does no harm. Toddlers grow up and prefer not to be reminded what brats they were. So will the anti-vaxxers.

Flora Gill (pictured) said bribery will create a damagingly negative view of her generation

Flora Gill (pictured) said bribery will create a damagingly negative view of her generation


By Flora Gill 

Whether a £17 voucher would encourage people to get jabbed, I have no idea. If you were a mad anti-vaxxer or terrified of injections, this amount wouldn’t persuade you.

But I don’t think either of these camps is behind our vaccine slowdown — the main culprit is apathy.

Life is returning to normal and it no longer feels like the life-or-death freedom ticket it did. Instead, getting jabbed has made its way onto the list of ‘should dos’, alongside flip the mattress and book a smear test.

I want to believe such a depressing incentive scheme wouldn’t work…until I remember that when my university announced the college with the highest student turnout for STD tests would get a £500 bar tab, even religious virgins joined the queue.

The reason I’m fundamentally against paying young people to get the vaccine is that, besides being insulting, it will create a damagingly negative view of my generation.

Offering a measly voucher implies the young are so selfish, they can only be persuaded to do the right thing through bribery.

But in reality, while older generations have been following rules to protect themselves, the young have been sacrificing everything to protect others. They have put their lives on hold, jeopardised future earnings, relationships and mental health, all to protect their elders.

It would devalue the sacrifices already made 

Last year, they could have thought ‘Sod this, sod my parents, sod my grandparents, let’s go full Lord Of The Flies’ with all those over 40 stuck inside while Britain’s youth partied.

So don’t give Boomers the ammunition to blame Covid spikes on a generation who should be praised. Don’t let them demean and devalue a year of sacrifice by bribing us at this final easy hurdle.

Of course, there is an obvious reason to get the vaccine — the big, selfless, save-the-world one. But young people have had nearly 18 months of doing the right thing for the right reason.

Instead, twentysomethings just need reminding of all the other reasons to get the vaccine. Get jabbed for the friends you meet in the girls’ loo, for the first glorious bite of a kebab after a messy night out, for falling temporarily in love with holiday flings you then block on social media, for overpriced boxes of Maltesers in theatres, and pretending to pick a wine that isn’t simply the cheapest in the restaurant.

Do it for the return of normal and a guarantee that we never go back to a truly awful year.