Australian doctors have come out in support of Labor’s pitch to pay every fully vaccinated person $300, describing it as an “excellent proposal”.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese unveiled the plan on Tuesday, claiming the payments would incentivise all Australians to get vaccinated before 1 December.
If every eligible adult was vaccinated and received the money, the scheme would cost around $6 billion.
"The Government has failed on its two jobs this year, the rollout of the vaccine and fixing quarantine," Albanese said.
"It needs to use every measure at its disposal to protect Australians and our economy."
Australia’s vaccination push is gathering steam but the proportion of vaccinated people still lags behind the rest of the world, with just 19 per cent of people older than 16 fully vaccinated.
The NSW Doctors Reform Society (DRS) said the plan recognises the urgent need for every Australian to become vaccinated as soon as possible, and noted that the NSW lockdown is already estimated to have cost the economy $1 billion for each week of lockdown.
“Australia has the lowest vaccination rate in the developed world because of the Federal Government’s attitude to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout of “it’s not a race", resulting in confused messaging to the public about the urgency of vaccination,” DRS President Dr Con Costa said.
“The $300 incentive for vaccination by 1st December tells Australians that it is urgent and important they get vaccinated.”
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian open to 'all' options
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was also open to the scheme, telling reporters on Tuesday that the state government has been looking at incentives.
However, she said she believed people were more motivated by the prospect of freer movement at this stage.
“Any incentives around those things we think are great motivators so we're looking at those options,” Berejiklian said.
“We know if we encourage people to get vaccinated to provide them with additional freedoms that that is the best motivator of all. Obviously we're considering all the options.”
The TGA in June said businesses could run competitions, offer discounts and vouchers to people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, provided the businesses don’t discriminate between vaccines and the perks weren’t in the form of alcohol or tobacco.
Additionally, the perks can’t be offered only to people who got vaccinated after the reward had been announced, meaning people already vaccinated should be eligible.
Do COVID-19 vaccination perks work?
A Yahoo Finance poll of 769 people found that while 61 per cent wouldn’t be more inclined to get the vaccine if a reward was attached, 39 per cent said they would.
Griffith University researchers Sameer Deshpande and Joy Parkinson in late May called for targeted incentives to encourage people to get the jab.
They said there should be several forms of incentives designed to target different groups, including monetary incentives, cultural incentives and eventually penalties for non-vaccination, including limited access to sporting events.
They said one of the greatest ways to incentivise people to get vaccinated was to simply remove barriers to vaccination, including geographic barriers and the costs associated with needing time off to get the vaccine.
However, the Morrison government has rejected the $300 proposal, with Finance Minister Simon Birmingham branding it as insulting to people who have already been vaccinated.
"The evidence says that it's unnecessary and unlikely to work," Birmingham told the ABC on Tuesday, citing research performed by the Government’s behavioural economics team.
He said schemes in Canada and the UK, which have largely been led by the private sector, were more targeted and more likely to work.
"They used some targeted incentives in careful, targeted ways to help get people over the line, but not this type of broad-brush scatter gun approach," Birmingham said.
The Royal Australian Council of General Practitioners (RACGP_ has said one of the biggest barriers isn't hesitancy but confusion.
“Patients across Australia are suffering from ‘information overload’ and confused about their eligibility status and what next steps they should take. The goalposts seem to be shifting every other day and I am concerned that some patients will find it all too difficult and delay or avoid getting vaccinated altogether," RACGP President Dr Karen Price said in July.
“Governments need to work together through national cabinet to ensure that each jurisdiction’s eligibility criteria are clearly available to all vaccine providers and patients, and information needs to be updated immediately as changes occur and reach the people who need it."