Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/5/2021 (245 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Now that the vaccine rollout in this country is starting to flow like Molson Canadian at a college kegger, the question becomes: where are our free Krispy Kreme doughnuts?
Where is my original glazed? Or tax break. Or carton of eggs. Or hoodie. Or savings bond. Or steak coupon for the Keg. Or gratis duct cleaning. Or any of the incentives other countries are dangling to combat vaccine hesitancy and boost jab rates toward a goal of herd immunity.
South of the border, getting vaxxed is like joining a new Air Miles rewards program.
Free beer. Free oil change. Free baseball tickets. That last promo really tormented me, only because my daughters have now outgrown the Jays. It’s killing my soul more than any coronavirus ever could. When they were younger, we’d go to the Rogers Centre and they’d have on their Bautista and Tulowitzki jerseys. Every time the Jays scored, they’d jump out of their seats in a twin standing ovation, loudly recapping a play I just saw with my own eyes as, quite disgustingly, bits of popcorn or Starburst flew out of their tiny mouths.
It was the best. I miss those days.
But let’s get on track, which is vaccine incentives. As I write this on Friday, CBS is reporting new lottery promotions across America. Maryland has launched a $2-million Vax Cash sweepstakes, which includes $40,000 in daily cash prizes for anyone who gets the shot. This follows Ohio’s Vax-a-Million gambit, including five $1-million prizes and scholarships.
Meanwhile, Andrew Cuomo just unveiled a Vax and Scratch in New York, with prizes of up to $5 million. No word yet on whether entrants must scratch a part of the governor’s anatomy. Or if winners are obliged to sniff Chris Cuomo’s hair and then spitball ideas for how Andrew can wiggle out of scandal: I know! Maybe don’t be a creepy, handsy Lothario who, through extreme hubris and negligence, creates a nursing home genocide before cashing in on a book deal?
But here in Canada, there is no COVID-19 Keno or Lotto Moderna Max. We Canadians are such responsible and conscientious rule followers, our elected overlords see no reason to incentivize public health. Just trying to get vaccinated has felt like a Lottario long shot.
Pulling into the East York Town Centre the other day, I honestly did a double-take.
A lineup, hundreds deep, snaked around the mall. I was texting my beautiful wife in disbelief. It’s as if BTS was inside, signing autographs on a Black Friday. Not since waiting all afternoon to board a ferry in the Italian port city of Brindisi had I seen so many people on such a determined mission. We had our masks and appointments and were prepared to loiter outside Dollarama indefinitely until a nurse was ready to blast our biceps with Pfizer’s mind control potion.
Fine. Good. Most Canadians want to get vaccinated so they can be protected and get back to normal. But what about that population sliver that is watching all of this play out in a state of skeptical inertia? What about the Canadians who are terrified of the vaccine or convinced it will turn them into goat-humping zombies who will have their banking passwords stolen by Bill Gates as Dr. Fauci masterminds plans to harvest their internal organs?
Wouldn’t a free striped blanket from the Bay be a small price to pay to get everybody on board?
Right now, the system is focused on Canadians who want the vaccine. It is ignoring those who do not. And as supply eventually overtakes demand, that’s a problem, especially if you track the mutating pattern of microbial variants possibly resistant to mRNA platforms. I just sighed and closed my eyes for three seconds after typing that sentence because I’m so out of my depth.
OK, I’m not an epidemiologist! But all I’m saying to our politicians and captains of industry is to fast-forward a couple of stages in the grand reopening and consider ways to incentivize vaccines so we can nail down herd immunity. Let’s slam the door on this pandemic and throw away the key with a BOGO offer at Bed Bath & Beyond.
A 25-per-cent off coupon at Amazon does not seem like much to ask.
No one in Canadian power is giving incentives any serious thought. It doesn’t have to be $5 million or a Tesla Roadster, though if that was on the table, go ahead and prick me smallpox.
Corporations operating within our borders benefit from an educated workforce and public health care, which greatly reduces overhead. You mean to tell me they can’t hand out free chicken nuggets? Hey, Mr. Lube, how about a complimentary air filter to every Canadian who is no longer a biohazard? WestJet? After waiting for over an hour, I am now half-inoculated and see no reason why you should not reward me with a lifetime supply of mini Grey Goose bottles on every future flight. Tim Hortons? Well, maybe you can just stick to a national disincentive strategy: any Canadian not vaccinated will be forced to drink a new Cold Brew.
That could get us to 99 per cent by Labour Day.
My point today is simple. And it comes from my partially vaccinated heart.
It’s time to reward Canadians for doing the right thing, and for being so great over the last year.
Vinay Menon is the Star’s pop culture columnist based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @vinaymenon