Is making young people show vaccine passports to get into nightclubs a good idea? Boris Johnson's motivation in doing so appears to be that this is a good way to entice under 30s to get their jabs. In reality, the policy is illiberal, shows no gratitude for the sacrifices young people have already made during this pandemic, and should go against all of our British sensibilities. There's also a better alternative: one demonstrated in New York.
I’ve been based in the United States for the past six months and Boris could learn a thing or two from the freedom-loving Yankees. Here, proof of vaccination is not required for entry into nightclubs, as I experienced first hand last Saturday night. And rather than beating young folk into submission, those responsible for the vaccine roll-out on this side of the pond understand the meaning of an incentive.
While Boris adopts a 'stick' approach, America has opted for the 'carrot' to encourage vaccine take-up. New York City's vaccination roll-out has focused on offering actual incentives and perks. Partnering with Shake Shack and Krispy Kreme, vaccinated city dwellers could claim free fries and donuts when they presented a vaccination card to these retailers. Of course, freedom fries might do very little to entice non-Americans, but how about a liberty lollipop? Or a care-free crumpet?
For those who bleat about the obesity crisis and don’t want to encourage people to have a good time lest the extra calories be a drain on the NHS, we can look to New York for an answer to that, too. Through partnerships with a local gym chain, the health conscious could enjoy a free two-week gym membership for getting vaxxed. Not a bad deal at all.
And the goodies on offer don’t stop there. In classic over-the-top American style, rolling up your sleeve for a prick in the arm on this side of the Atlantic could win you football tickets, subway passes, free rides on New York’s version of Boris Bikes, and a whole lot more. At this point, it’s basically a game show.
While being a tad twee, the rewards incentivise the young to get vaccinated who otherwise, admittedly, have less reason than their parents or grandparents to get the jab. The young are, after all, less likely to die from the virus and yet might be just as likely to have bad side-effects from the vaccine: a major reason why some young people are less jab-keen. Granted, the carrots being dangled by the New York authorities are hardly jackpot prizes that will coax those most ardently opposed to vaccines, but it is enough to get the simply can’t be bothered 22-year-old down to his local jab centre. And that’s exactly how it should be.
With 65 per cent of young people in the UK already walking around with one shot inside of them, young Brits opposed to the vaccine should not be strong-armed into compliance. Instead, offering a few small perks in exchange for potentially putting yourself in bed for a day due to vaccine side effects, might just help Boris hit his 70 per cent target for herd immunity. For once, it might also just suggest the Government cares about our country’s young people and is willing to do something for them in return.
If Boris Johnson wants increased uptake of the vaccine, he should learn from the city in which he was born and offer young people actual incentives, not thinly veiled threats.