Free films, pizzas and coffees to boost youth jabs

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London: Young people will be offered free taxi rides, pizzas and supermarket discounts if they agree to have a coronavirus vaccine as the government attempts to boost uptake.

Ministers are in talks with dozens of companies, including coffee and cinema chains, about a voucher scheme to be launched later this month in time for the start of the academic year.

An NHS nurse looks for patients at a pop-up vaccination centre during a four-day COVID-19 vaccine festival in Langdon Park, east London, on Saturday July 31, 2021. Credit:AP

The government is desperate to increase the number of young adults who have been jabbed. Just 67 per cent of under-29s have received their first dose. Cabinet ministers have privately said that if this could be increased to more than 80 per cent it may head off the need for vaccine passports in places like nightclubs.

So far, Uber has agreed to offer free rides, while Deliveroo is offering discount codes on takeaway meals from 46,000 restaurants or discounts off shopping bills at supermarkets such as Waitrose, Morrisons and Aldi. Pizza Pilgrims, a restaurant chain with 10 outlets in central London, is offering discounts off meals, while Bolt, another ride-hailing app, will offer “free ride credits” to vaccination centres.

The scheme is likely to be expanded to include free cinema tickets and drinks at coffee shops in the coming weeks.

Ministers want to promote the new scheme at a “major flagship event” for young people in the next few weeks.

The offer will be targeted at younger adults, but will be open to all ages, which could create a backlash among others who have already had their jabs and were not rewarded for it.

The introduction of incentives to encourage reluctant groups to be vaccinated showed the “direction of travel” as ministers push to get more people inoculated, insiders said.

One Whitehall source said: “This is just the start of it, we are expecting a number of other companies to get involved. We are looking to move quickly on this.”

Typically, people will be offered discounts of around £10 ($19), either via a voucher or a discount code sent to their mobile phones, if they can prove they have just received their first jab.

The details of how the scheme will work are still being finalised, but people could be able to prove they have been jabbed by submitting a “selfie” photograph of them at a vaccine centre.

Insiders stressed that the “vouchers for jabs” plan was funded by the companies, and there were no plans at this stage to involve public money.

University College London estimates total population immunity is now at 87 per cent. Although they believe the delta variant has shifted the threshold needed to achieve herd immunity to 93 per cent.

A Deliveroo spokesman said: “This is the next step in helping get people vaccinated and safely back to normal.”

Thom Elliot, Pizza Pilgrims’ founder, added: “By making getting your jab as easy as grabbing a pizza, hopefully we can help our teams and our customers get both their first and second doses as easily and quickly as possible.”

Almost 90 per cent of the adult population, more than 46 million people, have had their first Covid vaccine and 70 per cent of adults, 38 million, have had both doses.

Thanking businesses for “stepping up” to support the vaccine drive, Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, urged people to “take advantage of the discounts”.

He added: “The life-saving vaccines not only protect you, your loved ones and your community, but they are helping to bring us back together by allowing you to get back to doing the things you’ve missed.”

Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, added that there was “strong enthusiasm” among young people so far to get vaccinated, adding: “Please get your jabs as soon as you can and grab a bargain.”

A Deliveroo spokesman said: “This is the next step in helping get people vaccinated and safely back to normal.”

The Telegraph, London

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