Lithuanian govt proposes paying pensioners to get Covid jabs in push to tackle vaccine hesitancy

The Lithuanian government has proposed dishing out €100 payments to vaccine-wary pensioners aged 75 and over in a bid to motivate the age group to get jabbed against Covid, as their inoculation rate remains low.

Speaking in a televised government meeting on Wednesday, Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said that Vilnius is “unable to convince them to vaccinate otherwise.”

She went on to say that if a jab-for-cash scheme “helps at least some people to take the right decision and avoid [a] severe form of the disease, or death – this is an investment worth doing.”

Social Security and Labor Minister Monika Navickienė also weighed in, noting that “there are over 270,000 people in Lithuania who are aged 75 years and over; they belong to a high-risk group and their immunization rates are significantly lower than those of other high-risk groups.”

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According to the minister, about 80,000 seniors in this group have either not been vaccinated or do not have antibodies from contracting the virus.

The ministry’s proposal aims to tackle fatality rates amongst pensioners, as two-thirds of its 5,134 Covid-related deaths have occurred in people aged 75 and higher.

The move, if approved next week, will grant a one-off payment of €100 ($115) to pensioners who get fully vaccinated between September and November. Senior citizens who come forward for a booster shot by the end of March will also be eligible to receive a pay-out. Vilnius expects that the initiative could cost up to €27 million if all eligible pensioners were to receive the lump sum.

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Lithuania is not the only country to offer cash incentives to motivate people to get vaccinated against the virus. Russia announced in August it was organizing a Covid-19 lottery of a thousand cash prizes worth around $1,300 each to boost its inoculation drive.

Slovakia announced a similar scheme in July of weekly cash prizes of up to €2 million for vaccinated people. Bratislava also launched another initiative of financial rewards for people who are able to convince someone else to get vaccinated, with higher pay-outs available if a skeptical elderly citizen can be persuaded.

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