Sask. Opposition pushes for vaccine incentives as Manitoba, Alberta launch lotteries

·3 min read
The Saskatchewan Opposition wants the provincial government to follow Alberta and Manitoba offering a lottery prize to those who get vaccinated. (Stefan Malloch/Shutterstock - image credit)
The Saskatchewan Opposition wants the provincial government to follow Alberta and Manitoba offering a lottery prize to those who get vaccinated. (Stefan Malloch/Shutterstock - image credit)

The Saskatchewan Opposition NDP is calling on the provincial government to offer vaccine incentives as both Alberta and Manitoba have announced lotteries to boost uptake.

Saskatchewan has dropped to last among all provinces in the percentage of the population with at least one dose.

Manitoba and Alberta are just ahead of Saskatchewan at eighth and ninth among provinces. All three provinces are close to five per cent below the national average of 64.4 per cent.

Conversely, all three Prairie provinces have the highest percentage of the population fully vaccinated.

As of Monday, Alberta and Saskatchewan led the country with 17 per cent of the overall population fully vaccinated; Manitoba was third with 14 per cent.

On Monday morning, Opposition Leader Ryan Meili and health critic Vicki Mowat held a news conference in Saskatoon, asking the provincial government to embrace incentives.

"This government set a target date for ending restrictions and ending the mask mandate with only one metric — first-dose vaccination rates. Even if this reached in the time frame they set out, it's clear that our first-dose uptake is not where it should be," said Mowat.

"The premier and the minister of Health owe us all an explanation as to what has gone wrong — and a real plan to fix it."

Last week, the NDP proposed a $25,000 lottery for anyone fully vaccinated.

On Monday, Meili renewed his calls for a vaccine lottery, scholarships and smaller cash prizes.

"Scott Moe is not stepping up with new action, and that's why we're calling for a new approach," Meili said.

He said the amount awarded in a lottery is worth discussing, but the government has been unwilling "to even try" to discuss incentivizing vaccinations.

Meili proposed finding new ways to reach populations that are undervaccinated, hesitant or looking for reliable information on vaccinations.

Meili said the government made mistakes by not setting up a centralized booking system to handle all vaccination appointments.

Last week, Health Minister Paul Merriman said the government was not interested in offering any sort of incentives.

Merriman said that while he is aware of the incentive plans in other jurisdictions, "We haven't seen anything that would really increase [vaccine takeup]."

Saskatchewan's entire reopening plan is tied to first doses only. To complete every stage and remove public health restrictions, the government has set a target of 70 per cent of people age 12 and over to have one dose of vaccine.

On Monday, Premier Scott Moe tried to push people to clinics with social media posts advertising walk-in and drive-thru clinics in Regina offering only first doses.

As of Sunday, the province was three per cent short, approximately 33,000 first doses short of hitting the final reopen step.

Sask. neighbours launch lotteries

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced Sunday his government would hand out $3 million in prizes through a lottery for anyone vaccinated.

"We need to just nudge those who haven't gotten around to getting their vaccines yet," Kenney said Sunday.

Last week, the Manitoba government announced it was offering $1.9 million in cash and scholarships for those who get two shots.

"This lottery gives Manitobans a reason to move faster to roll up their sleeves, not once but twice," said Premier Brian Pallister.

Manitoba will hold two draws, one for people who get their first dose by Aug. 2, and another for those who get their second by Sept. 6.

Anyone 12 and older who gets a vaccine will automatically become eligible to win, but only people 18 and older will be eligible for the cash prizes.

Those aged 12 to 17 can win scholarships. Each of the two draws will award 10 $25,000 scholarships.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting