Cash incentives are “on the table” as a means to persuade young people to get the coronavirus vaccine, a minister has admitted.
The government has already introduced a number of ploys including “kebabs for jabs”, free taxi rides and cinema trips in a bid to encourage people to get the jab, but is still worried about low uptake.
Universities minister Michelle Donelan became the first minister to signal hard cash rewards, telling Times Radio “there may be an element of government money attributed” to incentives.
And and when asked by Sky News whether the UK would follow the US - which has offered young people $100 to get the vaccine - Donelan replied: “We’ve looked at a variety of mechanisms to encourage young people”.
“I think the biggest incentive is to protect their own health and protect the health of their friends and their loved ones, we are seeing young people every day come forward and get vaccinated… but we’ll keep everything on the table and review all options for incentivising everybody to get the vaccine.”
On Monday 26,114 people were vaccinated with a first dose of the vaccine, down from a June peak of 299,837.
Currently all adults aged 18 or over can now get their vaccine. 88.7 percent of adults have received a first dose and 73 per cent have received a second dose.
On TimesRadio, Donelan did not deny that taxpayer money could be funding reward schemes to get people vaccinated, saying: “It is a partnership. So there may be an element of government money attributed, but there certainly is private investment into this initiative, too.
“But I think we should all be welcoming any initiative that encourages everybody to go and get the vaccine and as quickly as possible. It is our route out of this pandemic, it’s the way that we can avoid any further restrictions having to be introduced, which I’m sure you know, everybody would agree is so important, my constituents do.”
Her comments come as the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is poised to recommend that 16 and 17-year-olds get the coronavirus jab, in a move that would affect around 1.5million teenagers.
If ministers approve the advice as expected, healthy teenagers aged over 16 and who have not yet been able to get their vaccine will be offered the chance to get the jab.
Under existing guidance, those aged 16 to 17 with underlying health conditions and those aged 12-15 that make them more vulnerable to coronavirus have been able to access the vaccine, as have those aged 12 to 17 who lived with an immunosuppressed person.
The suggestion that 16 and 17-year-olds could be offered the jab was first let out of the bag by Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who told the Scottish parliament she was “hopeful” the recommendations would be updated.
The potential move to vaccinate 16 and 17-year-olds would bring the UK in line with other countries such as the US, which has already begun vaccinating under-18s, as well as the UAE, Israel, Japan, Singapore, China, Canada, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
Around 20 countries in the EU have started to roll out vaccines to children or plan to do so in the near future.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told HuffPost UK: “With the JCVI apparently about to give the green light to vaccinating 16 year olds, ministers need to ensure plans are in place to roll out this vital next stage of vaccination while ensuring parents have all the facts and information they need.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.